Branding in the days of default distrust 

Trust is in a state of crisis.  

As many as 60% of Americans say they now default to not trusting information, according to Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer. 

Different narratives on the same news story swat at our sense of balance. We’ve become hyper-sensitive to phishing, data hacks and privacy breaches. Heck, our nation just trudged through the one-year anniversary of the Capitol insurrection — the epitome of what happens when confidence is broken.

The absence of trust makes us care about it more. In a recent study by Salsify, consumers reported “brand trust” as the top priority when it comes to purchasing decisions in a digital, post-pandemic world.

That means it’s more important than ever to build and maintain a brand people trust, but trust can be hard to earn and easy to lose. It’s never assumed.  

With so many factors working against trust, is it even possible to build and maintain brand confidence?  

It sure is.  

Start with a clear and concise brand promise. It tells anyone who interacts with your brand what to expect. It’s why your product or service has value.    

To assure it’s a promise that resonates, consider it against two factors: competence and benevolence. 

Competence represents your brand’s ability to deliver on its promises. Benevolence represents the motives and intentions behind your brand’s purpose. 

Simply put: keep your brand promise and make sure it’s what truly matters to your audiences. 

Listen to the bad stuff. 

Observe how people interact with your brand in a negative way. 

Too often, we’ll react to a complaint with, “Yes, but…” We might even say, “They really need to see it from our perspective.” 

Your audience doesn’t need to see it from your perspective. You need to see it from theirs.  

Work relentlessly to understand and exist in the world of your stakeholder. Your credibility is built on their perception of your brand, not the other way around.   

Use content to be authentically helpful. The best way to build trust is to help people — not sell to people. Instead of writing about what your brand does and how it’s better, create content about why it’s helpful.

Keep your content simple. When you find yourself writing litigiously, go back to your brand promise. All you need is encapsulated in that handy statement.

In a world where half-truths and faulty claims are oddly normal, don’t give up on the power of brand trust. You can earn it and keep it for the betterment of all.

Amy Behning is Brand Arsonist and Co-Owner at MindFire Communications, Inc. (, headquartered in LeClaire. Contact Ms. Behning at 

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