Trust Us- Reading this Post Will Improve Your Business

By Rob Duboff, Patrick Kruger and Eliza Sandler
Group photo of people placing their hands in the middle

Did the title make you instinctively distrust whatever we are claiming? That is what most consumers tell us; the fastest way to lose trust is to tell people to trust you.

At HawkPartners, we have spent several years studying brand authenticity and have come to understand how closely linked it is to trust. An authentic voice is one of the best, if not the best, ways to gain trust through communication. As we have continued to advise clients on how to build enduring, profitable relationships with customers, it remains a certainty — across industries — that trust is key. Loss of trust always translates to loss of business, regardless of the quality of the product or service.

Positive Impact of Building Trust

Trust is a well-established factor for continuous consumer-company relationships and is a major predictor of positive business outcomes. Trusted brands benefit from loyalty, engagement, brand commitment, customer retention, purchase intention, and greater sales.

Specifically, studies have shown that 9% of a brand’s equity is driven by corporate trust. Trusted brands are also 7X more likely to command a premium price, are 8X more resilient, and have stock prices that outperform their sector by up to 11% in times of crisis (Edelman, WARC).

Negative Impact of Losing Trust

Trust, however, is a moving target. Trust is easier to be lost than gained, and it varies by both industry and brand. 40% of consumers report having given up brands because they didn’t trust the companies that owned the brand.

One year after its cross-selling scandal became public , trust in Wells Fargo had cratered, with one survey finding that 44% of Americans named Wells Fargo as their least-trusted financial institution, far and away the highest mark. More than half of Wells Fargo’s own customers said they would be willing to switch to another bank if it was more trustworthy.

In the wake of its 2015 emissions scandal, Volkswagen also saw consumer confidence erode, with only 2 in 10 vehicle owners reporting a favorable opinion of the automaker, while that figure had previously been 7 in 10. Volkswagen sales flatlined while the auto industry continued to grow at a 16% clip during that period.

The Three Cornerstones of Trust

Our work focuses on three essential cornerstones of trust:

  • Credibility – A brand’s trustworthiness hinges on dependability or an evaluation of outcomes arising from slow, steady, and transparent consistency (Raimondo). Here is where authenticity and marketing can play.
  • Competence – Trust also relies on competence, meaning a brand needs to be good at what it is supposed to do and have a clear and united two-way communication method (Bachnik & Nowacki; Kang & Hustvedt; Raimondo). Here is where the core functions of the business dominate.
  • Connection – Trust flourishes where there is an emotional connection that includes personal characteristics such as honesty, sincerity, empathy, inclusivity, and relevance (Raimondo, WARC). Here is where marketing and core functions must work together so that customers trust the brand to deliver a product they feel good about.

These cornerstones of trust inform how we work with our clients on brand strategy and marketing communications. Crucially, establishing and maintaining trust requires cross-functional attention, including among senior leadership.

Some requirements for developing trust are universal, and some are unique to the industry and specific client. Diagnostic research can help to identify these industry and brand-specific requirements, which can help companies to focus their efforts. And continuous measurement, through customer satisfaction/loyalty and brand tracking programs, can ensure that companies’ initiatives are remaining on target across the board.
So, please trust us on this.


  1. Bachnik, K., & Nowacki, R. (2018). How to build consumer trust: Socially responsible or controversial advertising. Sustainability, 10(7), 2173.
  2. Edelman. (2022). Edelman Trust Barometer 2022.
  3. Kang, J., & Hustvedt, G. (2014). Building trust between consumers and corporations: The role of consumer perceptions of transparency and
     social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 125, 253-265.
  4. Raimondo, M. A. (2000, September). The measurement of trust in marketing studies: a review of models and methodologies. In 16th IMP-
    conference, Bath, UK (p. 5).
  5. What we know about brand trust: WARC. WARC An Ascential Company. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2023, from know-about-brand-trust/110020

Connect with our team to assess how your business can most effectively build customer trust.