Insights from the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer and the four key implications for your brand strategy

February 13, 2023
B2B Brand strategy Employer branding

The Australian edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021 was released at the end of February and it appears that across the breadth of Australian businesses and institutions, trust is at an all-time high.

Briefly cast your mind back to 2019, and at that point, Edelman’s insights were a stark contrast to what we saw this time around. The 2019 edition showed enormous inequality in trust levels, with a more trusting group building from the informed section of the public, versus a far-more-sceptical mass population. The only real trust to be found was in employers, with Australian’s appreciating their employers and rewarding them with greater loyalty, engagement and commitment. This had significant implications for your employer brand, and in defining an employee value proposition that would resonate throughout your organisation as it evolved across the changing conditions in the economy and society.

Here are our four key takeaways from the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, as well as the implications for your brand.

1. The influence of environmental, social and governance competence on trust levels is significant.

Businesses in Australia have looked to align with the significant pressures around climate change and ethics, to the point where they are now trending towards ‘competent’ territory. This is significant as just two years ago, the Barometer reported that no institution was ethical, let alone competent. It appears that climate change is of increasing concern for Australians, and it is certainly of much greater concern than fears over contracting COVID-19.

This puts immediate pressure on businesses who are not putting their corporate, social responsibility and sustainability position on the same level as (or above) COVID-19. We saw enormous amounts of sustained change in response to the immediacy of the pandemic and its impact on daily life, but the pressures of climate change and the impact of ethical reform is a much longer, strategic consideration for brands going forward.

Your brand may need to reconsider its messaging and look to better reflect the changing mindsets amongst potential clients. A refreshed brand positioning or a rethinking of your corporate narrative can help your organisation align to these revised expectations and better reflect your values.

2. Employers continue to be crucial – defining this relationship in the changing context is essential.

Just as it was in 2019, employers remain a crucial bond of trust across Australia. This employee-employer dynamic has changed, however, with businesses being required to rewire their approach to working arrangements and create a future of work that works for all. The national ‘work from home’ experiment has allowed employees to juggle professional and personal obligations and collaborate with colleagues virtually. For enterprises of all sizes, the level of trust required to ensure organisational accountability has remained high, and this has solidified the bond with employees.

It is important to consider your existing employee value proposition and define how it currently turns up through these revised working arrangements and economic conditions. Brands that take a proactive approach and clearly articulate their employee value proposition in this context are likely to see this bond extended. This places an emphasis on their culture and flexibility and helps them be perceived internally and externally as a more enticing employer of choice.

For more information on how to build an engaging employee value proposition, click here.

3. Salient and contemporary thinking will be critical as information hygiene shapes behaviour.

The 2021 Barometer showed that the Australian public is highly conscious of the way they digest information and are increasingly aware of the political, media and scientific literacy they read. This is now seen as much more of a personal responsibility and being informed across multiple sources of news and contemporary information was of increased importance.

Brands that can demonstrate an understanding of this through active and well-evidenced thought leadership will benefit from this renewed awareness amongst the general public. But it is important to remember that this perspective and thought leadership content should be validated with insight and analysis.

Brand research is a powerful tool that can help throughout this process. Research allows your brand to take a deep dive into the state of the new market, to find out what clients expect of you, to discover what their new current needs are, and to establish how to reconnect with them both rationally and emotionally. Brand research will ultimately help to build to this trusted, evidenced perspective throughout your thought leadership thinking.

4. Trust is at an all-time high across all Australian institutions, and it appears that it’s ours to lose.

Trust is one of the most valuable assets for any organisation, and in the B2B context, trust and culture – the values, mission and habits of an organisation – are interdependent. When an organisation has a strong and positive culture and an authentic offer to the market, trust and brand advocacy are built over time. The insights from the 2021 Barometer are a direct reflection of this sustained effort from Australian institutions, but it is important to remember how fragile that trust is, and how quickly a reputation can deteriorate when culture and trust aren’t aligned.

Trust is a crucial pillar in business and as it rises, so does consumer confidence. Organisations that lead with their brand values will be better positioned to capitalise on this rise in consumer confidence. 

Organisations have had the opportunity to transform the very human, day-to-day interactions between themselves and their employees and rejig their existing approach. When this is clearly articulated through a mastered and evidenced EVP, and when trust has become part of a company’s culture, they become known as valuing their employees, and prospective talent is drawn to them. Their existing employees are engaged and committed and trust that what they are doing, matters.

Building and maintaining trust in your brand, matters

First and foremost, brands need to uncover what is important to their customers; once this is established and understood, then your brand strategy should be a promise to deliver this.

At BrandMatters, we understand the criticality of building trust throughout your brand strategy. Whether it is in relation to articulating a strong brand positioning, crafting a differentiated brand narrative, or building out emotionally engaging customer or employee value propositions, everything communicates and has an underlying impact on developing trust in your brand.

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