Each day, we deal with more and more social, political and economic uncertainty. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by these sometimes troubling and confusing times. But because of this, brands who are committed to working toward a brighter collective reality are standing out and strengthening the trust of consumers and other stakeholders. We know from years of research that trust leads to stronger relationships between a brand and consumers, which means stronger brand equity, more loyal consumers, and stronger sales. Below are five of the many ways courageous brands are earning more trust in the uncertain times we live in.
During the past month alone, we’ve seen unprecedented actions by brands such as Airbnb, Lyft, Starbucks, Audi and more. These brands are standing up for human rights, publicly declaring that empathy and inclusion are in the core of their brand DNA, and at the same time are generating trust and strong feelings of loyalty from consumers who hold similar views. Airbnb took the lead at the end of January by offering free housing to people stranded by President Trump’s immigration order. In a similar vein, Lyft donated $1 Million to the ACLU to help combat the immigration ban, and Starbucks boldly stated to their employees that they would hire 10,000 refugees. Microsoft, Amazon and Expedia have all declared public support for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, which is suing in federal court to stop President Trump’s order. In addition, Nike is taking a stand for equality with a new film and partnerships dedicated to inspiring people to take action in their communities.
Brands are gaining trust with consumers who understand that technology can be the great equalizer if harnessed with everyone’s interests in mind. These brands are earning trust with their consumers by using technology to increase transparency, and to provide access to information that wouldn’t be ordinarily be available to all. Google is on a mission to democratize access to sustainability by improving the tools and features they offer, so that more businesses can improve their sustainability programs. Businesses can now see their supply chains in real life on a map, and Google has created free mapping tools for anyone to monitor the planet for overfishing, deforestation and more. Along with the Healthy Building Network, Google has also launched Portico, a tool for tracking and analyzing building materials.
Innovative mobile apps and platforms are also redefining how consumers and businesses are accessing information. TangoTab, for example, provides users with easy access to local restaurants giving deals that benefit great causes and work to solve hunger. Fabacus is a technology platform designed to help retailers save money by streamlining the way manufacturers manage complex supply chains by offering access to live data and system-to-system integration. The co-founder of Fabacus, Andrew Xeni believes the technology will help companies overcome issues of transparency and reduce supply chain risk, something that constantly plagues the fashion industry – especially where fast fashion is concerned. Fabucus, along with other tools like Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Materials Sustainability Index offer opportunities for brands to make improvements to both their procurement and production processes, as well as their reputations.
One particular mega challenge that startups and brands are tackling is reinventing our food system, and changing consumption preferences. For example, startups Exo, Chapul, and Chirp, among others believe that eating insects is the way of the future. This cheap, abundant source of protein can replace the resource intensive alternatives. Same goes for Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat – they are on the forefront of changing consumers preferences by formulating foods that taste and feel like meat but are made entirely of plants – greatly reducing the burden on our planet. Big brands are catching on to this trend for less resource intensive products – WhiteWave, for example is seeing massive growth through their plant-based brands like Silk, Earthbound Farm and SoDelicious.
These companies are tailoring their offerings to consumer demand, but they are also leading the way in bringing forth solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. These leaders are garnering the most trust from their consumers.
Brands that are working closely with cities to revitalize, strength and make better use of urban spaces we live in are winning the the trust of consumers. For example, Timberland plans double its footprint in five U.S. cities by 2020 by creating or restoring an amount of green space that matches or exceeds its own retail footprint in that city. In partnership with local nonprofit GrowNYC, Timberland employees and volunteers transformed a neglected 32,000 square-foot lot in the Mott Haven Neighborhood of South Bronx, New York, into a vibrant community garden. Similarly, compost startup Detroit Dirt is turning forgotten parcels of land in Detroit into urban farms that not only feed, but revitalize the community. When brands rebuild the communities they live and work in, we feel a deep sense of camaraderie and trust that goes beyond a traditional of brand connection.
Many companies are finding the best way to innovate for environmental and social benefit is to partner with entrepreneurs to tackle our biggest global issues together. Big brands such as Target are working with entrepreneurs in their Accelerator program, and Levi’s is working with smaller brands like Outerknown to tackle important water issues. The Hershey Company is working with social entrepreneurs on win-win strategies to support them, as well as learn from their ideas and innovation.
Learn more about brand positioning in uncertain times during live discussions with many of the brands featured here, including Google, Tangotab, Timberland, Detroit Dirt, Whitewave and many more at SB’17 Detroit on May 22-25, 2017.
Nassy Avramidis, Content Development Manager, Sustainable Brands
February 17, 2017