“Trust me, I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” This statement demonstrates that trust must be earned.
What does “trust” really mean? Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as a “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective” and “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something”.
When applied to food brands, factors that earn consumer trust include consistent product performance, a consumer-centric approach, exemplary customer service, ethical business practices and delivering on promises.
How is trust eroded?
Brand owners should ask themselves “why would I think twice about buying a brand?” In addition to product and packaging performance, here are five reasons to consider.
- News of product recalls, especially if food borne illness and death are involved, spreads like wildfire through the internet, melding facts with misinformation until they are indistinguishable.
- A brand that promotes its products as healthy when they are not, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The market is full of illegally labeled foods touting disease prevention or making claims such as “low fat” while having a high sodium content. “Gluten-free” claims are springing up all over, without the backing of third party certification such as the Gluten-Free Certification Program.
- Food originating from countries with a poor food safety record or questionable practices is a growing concern among consumers. Highly publicized food safety issues have caused consumers to shy away from products made in China. The label has become synonymous with inferior quality.
- An unbelievably low price can suggest poor quality. Extra virgin olive oil priced below $4.99 per litre is suspicious and may suggest adulteration with other less expensive oils, a widespread practice in the category.
- Deceptive practices like secretly decreasing the package contents, while maintaining an illusion of the original size have often been the subject of consumer complaints. Although research has shown consumers prefer a size reduction to a price increase, they despise dishonesty.
How can a brand build trust?
It all starts with having a brand strategy, in writing. It is the “bible” for your brand, providing guidance for all members of your organization, as well as third party service providers like design agencies, distributors and brokers.
Understand the promise you are making and how it relates to your target customer’s needs, wants, aspirations and pain points. Then live up to that promise, not only in all consumer touch-points (product, packaging, marketing), but also behind the scenes in operations and your business as a whole. Not an easy thing to achieve, it requires a “brand champion” to integrate the brand promise into all areas of the organization.
Does your business consistently deliver on the brand promise in all these areas?
- Product and packaging attributes, benefits and performance
- Quality assurance and food safety management systems
- Pricing and promotions
- Marketing messages
- Website content and design
- Social media posts and engagement with your audience
- Distributors and retail channels you selected to sell your brand
- Channels used to dispose of outdated and excess inventory
- Customer service representatives armed with detailed information and the latitude to compensate unhappy customers
- Social responsibility and ethical sourcing
- Sustainability practices
- The total consumer experience, from pre-purchase to after consumption
Price can set consumer expectations of a brand. Premium and luxury brands, by their very nature, have high standards to live up to. When consumers pay a high price for a product, the promise is implied and expectations are high. On the other hand, if you have an economy brand, your promise may be average quality at a low price. However, if the quality falls below a certain standard consumers will lose trust, regardless of the low price.
It is easier and less costly to retain customers than convincing your competitor’s customers to switch brands. Keeping the brand promise builds trust. Trust leads to brand loyalty, which is the Holy Grail in today’s highly competitive packaged foods business.
Birgit Blain is a packaged foods and brand consultant. Her seasoned team prepares brands for the next stage of growth. Birgit’s experience includes 17 years in the grocery trade with Loblaw Companies and President’s Choice®. Learn more at www.BBandAssoc.com