There’s no better way to dissect the how-tos of branding than to dig deep into the companies everybody knows and trusts. To accomplish this, Entrepreneur teamed with The Values Institute at DGWB, a Santa Ana, Calif.-based think tank that focuses on brand relationships, on a consumer survey that explored the reasons some brands manage to stay on top.
What became clear: Though they may not have the biggest sales or market share in their categories, today’s most trustworthy brands have created relationships with consumers through experiences that trigger a visceral response.
“We’re seeing more of an emphasis on brands building emotional relationships with consumers because it’s powerful and it works,” says branding consultant Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble and author of Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies. “When you do it, you have a much stronger affinity, a much stronger business, much stronger growth and much stronger results.
“When we looked at brands [at P&G] that had a very, very strong emotional benefit vs. our competition,” Stengel adds, “our shares were much, much higher. And the margin of growth vs. our competitor was much higher than those that had just a functional superiority.”
Here, a look at the tactics used by America’s most trustworthy brands to connect with consumers–and ways you can put them to work for your business.
1. Get personal: Amazon
2. Sell happiness: Coca-Cola
3. Live up to your promise: FedEx
4. Keep it cool (and fun): Apple
5. Design an experience: Target
6. Stay consistent: Ford
7. Can-do attitude: Nike
8. Forge connections: Starbucks
9. Serve up the quirky: Southwest Airlines
10. Focus on the customer: Nordstrom
About the survey: The Values Institute, which conducted the study, identified five values that influence trust in a brand: ability (company performance); concern (care for consumers, employees and community); connection (sharing consumers’ values); consistency (dependability of products/services); and sincerity (openness and honesty).
A total of 1,220 U.S. consumers were asked to rate each trust value on a five-point scale, from “very unimportant” to “very important.” Additionally, five consumer perceptions were measured for each value; these included statements such as “They respond to feedback about their products and services,” and “They value my business and reward me for the loyalty.” Each respondent rated two randomly selected brands; those who felt strongly were also asked to provide individual comments. The result is the “Trust Index,” a composite score that indicates the level of trust respondents had with each individual brand in relation to the other studied brands.