The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Trust Is the New Black… Again


In May of 2010, I published a white paper entitled “Trust is the New Black.” I’ve been measuring, training, speaking, and writing about trust for decades; it’s the best indicator of health in one-to-one relationships. These days, every brand is all about building one-on-one relationships with its customers, so trust has become a marketing imperative. You can imagine my surprise when this year’s BrandZ brand value rankings came out, and the first article within the report carries the title “Trust is the New Black”. No attribution. No reference to our work. OK. The BrandZ report is a Millward Brown initiative. Millward Brown is part of WPP. WPP is awash in intellectual capital and has no need to plagiarize from anyone, so I’m sure this was coincidence. The fact that we both chose the same term to describe the “emergence” of trust as a key component of brand equity indicates how much attention trust attracts from brand consultants and how focused that attention tends to be. The BrandZ methodology for measuring brand value is comprehensive to say the least. It is a formula comprised of financial and survey data that spits out values and allows the company to make apples-to-apples comparisons across cultures and industries. While the rankings provoke debate and generate publicity, the articles that set context and offer insight reflect state-of-the-art brand analysis. The report does an impeccable job of parsing brand equity, but it does little to parse trust – which it deems a key component of the brand value formula. It is extremely hard for any brand to build trust without understanding the process by which it is built. That process requires identification of things that enhance a customer’s trust and things that undermine it. Those “things” can cover a wide array of possibilities — actions the brand takes, causes it embraces, products it produces, services it delivers, experiences it provides – but the mix will be different for each brand. Usability Sciences tends to focus on trust within a brand’s digital channel, and we identify trust-builders and trust-inhibitors by asking a metric-based trust question and then cross-tabbing it against facets of the digital experience – content or functions on a website, for example. That gives the brand a starting list than can be measured, monitored, and refined over time. But it also reduces “trust” from some great mystical response measured annually by a third party to something that can be parsed out and acted upon in increments and improved continuously.

— Roger Beynon, CSO, Usability Sciences


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