Stacy Bingle
Stacy Bingle is Senior Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. She engages clients in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.

Trust is everything. In a culture of intense uncertainty, skepticism, and divisiveness, Mintel’s 2018 North America Consumer Trend ‘Trust Funding’ notes that “consumers are putting their dollars where their trust remains intact.” Similarly, communications firm Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer mentions a “trust crash.” At an early February event put on by The Executives’ Club of Chicago, Richard Edelman, the President and CEO of his namesake firm, along with a panel of business leaders, agreed that consumers now – more than ever – look to businesses to be honest, ethical, and trustworthy.

Here, we explore five crucial lessons in trust from the panel and tap into inspiration from brands who are earning high marks in those lessons so far this year.

1. State your values

As Anne Pramaggiore, CEO of Illinois electricity provider ComEd, described: “If you’re not defining yourself on social issues, somebody else is going to define you.”

  • Sonos shuttered its NYC flagship store for a day in support of net neutrality and Burger King launched a campaign called “Whopper Neutrality” on the same issue.

2. Do well by doing good

Eric Smith, Regional President of Fifth Third Bank in Chicago, said that his company is focused on investing more in minority-owned businesses and in community development. Mintel’s research on American lifestyles corroborates the idea: more than half of US consumers agree that they expect brands to be a force for positive change, while only 10% disagree.

  • Following up on its four-year-old commitment to stop retouching models in photographs, clothing and intimates brand Aerie has kicked off its “Strong. Beautiful. Me.” initiative, which supports the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to champion body diversity and encourage women and girls to live authentically.

3. Align purpose with profit

Brad Keywell, Founder and CEO of industrial analytics provider Uptake, said that however a company makes money, it has the potential to do something purposeful along the way.

  • In an effort to curb abuse and misuse of opioids amid a growing national crisis, Walmart announced that it will distribute a free packet of opioid disposal solution, called DisposeRx, to every patient who fills a Class II opioid prescription at the retailer’s pharmacies moving forward.

4. Think of your company as a media company

Edelman highlighted the need for companies to provide objective and responsible information to help people make their own analyses and decisions.

  • CVS has introduced the CVS Beauty Mark, a watermark that will appear on imagery that is authentic and has not been materially altered, and will visibly label any digitally altered imagery they use.
  • Unilever has warned Facebook and Google that it could pull its massive digital ad spend if the social media giants fail to make changes to ensure that content is unobjectionable and unfabricated.

5. Live the values you espouse

Nicholas Johnston, Editor in Chief of news and information website Axios, pointed out that it’s important to not just make big statements, but to take action as well.

  • De Beers is planning to launch an industry-wide blockchain that will improve transparency by enabling a tamper-proof and permanent digital record that tracks each time a registered diamond changes hands – all part of De Beers’ wider efforts to improve ethics and authenticity within the diamond industry.
  • At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Anheuser-Busch InBev revealed a “renewable electricity” symbol coming to Budweiser cans, as well as to other brands that meet the criteria and want to use it.

Now is the time to self-examine. Is your company trustworthy?