In Brands We Trust—or Not

A whole genre of self-mocking ads has grown up around the assumption that consumers distrust companies. But has all that carefully packaged irony been for naught? A Harris Poll conducted for M Booth & Associates detects a more nuanced relationship between people and brands. Asked whether “most companies have good intentions and work hard not to repeat similar mistakes,” 63 percent of respondents agreed, while just 17 percent disagreed. (The rest neither agreed nordisagreed.) Similarly, 59 percent agreed (and 21 percent disagreed) with the statement,”I believe most companies will do the right thing when faced with a serious problem with one of their products.” As you’d expect, personal experience with a company is the main factor in fostering or destroying trust. Thus, 93 percent agreed that if a customer-service department or Web site “is responsive to my questions, I am more likely to trust that company”; conversely, 76 percent would find it “difficult” to trust a new brand again if it “doesn’t work or doesn’t meet my needs once.” As usual, relatively few consumers admitted to being influenced by a company’s advertising (see the chart below). Fewer still (15 percent) said they “trust products more that have attractive or appealing packaging.”