Trust and purpose – a brand's winning relationship

Trust and purpose – both words you hear a lot in the world of communications. But, it’s the relationship between them that is so often misunderstood by businesses, brands and communications professionals, yet crucial for success and long term brand trust.

Let’s take a look at this relationship in the human world. The purpose of a teacher, for example, is to help a child build their knowledge and skills. But does that mean you trust that person? You may well do after some time, but only through the development of a personal relationship, endorsement by others and experience of how they work and who they are. A brand needs to do this too.

It’s worth going back to basics and reminding ourselves what each of these words really mean. Trust is based on the knowledge or ability of a person, thing or business. You have confidence in your teacher to teach, you have confidence in your supermarket to stock and sell meat. This helps you feel secure in what you are trying to achieve, be it educate your children or buy food for supper.

Purpose is about understanding the motive behind a brand doing what they are doing. This is where it gets harder – creating a human and emotional connection to drive action and loyalty is no mean feat.

For example, a leading tech brand may be here to sell more products, however its purpose is “to make it easier to love technology”. It promotes and sells a lifestyle based on its products, and we fall in love with this aspect of the brand offer. We listen to music, manage our life, pictures and work via their products, which all simultaneously link and make you realise the wonders of technology and what it can do for your life. It’s simple, or so they make us believe.

As author Simon Sinek said, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. The most successful brands create a greater purpose, something over and above the product or service they sell. They have created that emotional connection which for some brands has created a cult like effect. People follow, love and feel compelled to buy all the products they can. They truly trust in the brand through their experience, the endorsement of others and the one word we have yet to outline – transparency – without which trust will not exist. Trust will disappear faster than you can say the word if you mislead your public and audiences.

So how do they fit together? Can you create real trust without purpose? Let’s take the supermarket again. You may feel confident and trust that it will stock meat and fish, but do you really have confidence in the brand and its real purpose. Does it have one? In the short term you may continue to buy products there, but in the longer term you won’t feel attached to that brand or have any emotional connection based on what it stands for. You may not feel compelled to sign up for loyalty programmes or buy new services from them.

To really create brand trust and loyalty you must have a greater purpose. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking to a consumer or business audience. People need to believe in something and understand why that brand does what it does. It is the ‘why’ that is critical and this is also the element that is so often missing in communications.

Most businesses start their communications activity with the ‘what’, then go on to develop their external brand messages, and off they go like a bull in a ring – focused on the short term goals. But, without the important ‘why’ component your audiences will be none the wiser to who you really are and what your purpose is, and thus the trust will dwindle. In the short term this may not come to the surface and affect your business, but in the long term it will prevent you from differentiating and creating any real impact.

So, plan with purpose to create trust in your brand, focusing on the ‘why’ in what you do – get these elements right and you’re on to a winning formula to achieve your brand’s full potential.