Trust is broken. Here’s how to fix it

Edelman UK & Ireland CEO Ed Williams shares the four dimensions on which companies build trust and we look at a challenger brand example delivering against each one.

Over the last twenty years, we’ve seen a decline of trust in all institutions across the industrialised world. Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer found that only one in five people globally believe the system is working for them.

In business, trust is at 56% globally and as low as 47% in the UK with executive’s pay and tax avoidance considered to be significant factors negatively impacting people’s perceptions of business.

Ed Williams, the CEO of Edelman UK & Ireland shares with eatbigfish Edelman’s Net Trust Score (ENTS) including the four dimensions in which companies build trust. We then look at examples of how challenger brands are building trust through this lens.

Ability (Make it good)


The perception that an organisation is good at what it does is particularly powerful for building trust, according to Edelman.

Casper, the sleep company, is often celebrated for its bed-in-a-box delivery and experiential marketing, but creating sleep products superior to those already on the market has been crucial in building people’s positive perception of the brand.

The New York-based company has received 35,000 five-star reviews and the independent consumer choice magazine Which? awarded its Essential Mattress the ‘Best Buy’ for mattresses in 2019.

In fact, Casper is so confident in the quality of its mattresses it offers customers a 100-night trial with free collection and a 100% refund to any customer who isn’t happy with their purchase.

Delivering first-class products and services builds trust.

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

Dependability (Keep your promises)


Dependability, the expectation that a company will keep its promises, is another strong measure of trust.

One way to think about consistency is in terms of our product or service.

Wherever we are in the world, we can expect a McDonald’s meal or can of Coke to taste the same. Consistency is a ‘brilliant basic’ all brands strive for.

The beer category is certainly no exception.

Providing a consistently good experience of a beer to consumers is crucial for breweries hoping to grow from a small scale brewer to a trusted and successful business.

Would Heineken have invested £40m in the UK’s Beavertown Brewery if its Gamma Ray American Pale Ale tasted great just most of the time?

Consistency is key.

Integrity (Have conviction)


Integrity is the conviction that a company is honest. It means we need to live up to the behaviours and ethics that underpin our business.

In April 2019 Patagonia decided it would stop supplying branded products to companies whose existence or practices appeared at odds with its mission statement: “We’re in business to save our home planet.”

“We require disclosure as to the type of company whose name will appear on the Patagonia product and how the product will be used," now warns Patagonia’s corporate catalog. "We reserve the right to refuse service.”

The move is likely to have been in response to growing media attention on Patagonia’s corporate fleeces appearing to find a new and unlikely audience of chino-wearing, latte-sipping young ‘bros’ on Wall Street.

Patagonia’s mission of “Save our home planet” paired with Wall Street’s investment arms and brokerages appeared something of a mismatch.

Being seen to work with businesses that cause the planet harm would be seen as hypocritical and could quickly damage the trust that Patagonia has built up over the years had it not changed its policy to better reflect and reinforce its mission.

Talk is cheap. Just ask Pepsi.

Purpose (Positively impact society)


The final way companies build trust, according to Edelman, is through purpose. Companies build trust by delivering on a purpose that has a positive impact on people, society or the planet.

73% of respondents in Edelman’s 2019 study agreed that a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the communities where it operates—a nine-point increase from 2018.

US car ride company Lyft’s purpose is to “Improve people's lives through the world's best transportation.” Its vision is to “build cities around people, not cars.”

How does it achieve this?

Every Lyft ride is carbon neutral. A decision to travel with Lyft supports the fight against climate change through its funding of renewable energy programs and forestry projects.

In April 2019 it announced Lyft City Works, a commitment to invest $50m or 1% of profits—whichever is larger—to support locally-driven transportation and other initiatives to improve people’s lives in every city where it operates.

Lyft is trying hard to have a positive impact on society. Do people have the same emotional connection and level of trust in Uber?


Trust is crucial for healthy relationships between ourselves and our customers. Edelman’s 2019 barometer shows that High Trust companies outperform their sector by an average of 5%.

Gaining trust is not easy and takes time. Creating a great product or service takes hard work and commitment. Delivering that quality consistently time and time again takes a significant investment of resources. We can’t just have a purpose, we have to deliver and measure against it. And on integrity, we have to be open and held accountable to that purpose and ensure it bleeds through the business.

How would your company perform on trust and the four criteria above?

Thanks to Ed Williams, CEO of Edelman UK & Ireland for the interview. Global communications marketing firm Edelman specialises in measuring Trust and each year publishes the results through the Trust Barometer which surveys more than 33,000 people across 27 countries.