An annual brand survey carried out by the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria has revealed a “a dramatic shift” in consumer loyalty and purchase considerations.
The 2021 Gustavson Brand Trust Index (GBTI) shows changes that that highlight the relationship between consumer trust, brand advocacy and authenticity.
According to the seventh iteration of the Gustavson Brand Trust Index, the survey found that consumers’ trust in brands is linked to authenticity and that previously trusted brands such as Amazon, Whole Foods, Air Canada and Tesla Inc., dropped in the rankings. The GBTI points to consumers feeling that these big-name brands’ values no longer aligned with their own.
“More than ever, CEOs are being viewed as societal leaders entrusted to take a stand on social issues, from climate change to addressing racial injustice,” says Saul Klein, dean of the Gustavson School of Business. “As the world climbs out of the pandemic, brand awareness is no longer the currency of business—consumer trust is the priority. There is a need for companies to rethink how they are driving positive societal change.”
The survey reveals that the Canadian Automobile Association sits at the top of the list of most trusted brands, followed by Dyson, Lego, Interac and President’s Choice.
The GBTI findings suggest that over the past year, Canadian consumers have shown an “acute awareness of whether a brand is truly compassionate” in its day-to-day operations and activities. The survey also says that consumers are more focused on whether a brand’s acts of compassion are opportunistic, a distinction that has been reflected in the overall data.
“Amazon may be past its peak in terms of brand trust,” adds Klein. “While more Canadians have used Amazon services than ever before, concerns about the company’s broader impact have resulted in Amazon dropping sharply in this year’s study. Whole Foods had always prided itself on its employee culture, but the company’s brand trust and advocacy scores plummeted in 2021, and employee relations may have played a part in that.”
The GBTI points to a decline in trust amid grocery chains that offered hazard pay to employees at the onset of the pandemic, only to discontinue the benefits a few months later.
The survey outlines Whole Foods, specifically, as being a company that faced numerous lawsuits from employees after it was reported that they were being disciplined for wearing Black Lives Matter apparel.
In addition, the company also announced it would prohibit employees from wearing poppies on Remembrance Day, before ultimately reversing course on the decision.
“Trust in key institutions, in society and in business, has been eroding over the past few years,” adds Klein. “Consumers are more conscious of brand values and whether leaders can manage their companies in ethical, transparent and authentic ways that benefit both people and the planet.”
The brand survey also found that younger consumers are less trusting than older consumers and that trust in Canadian telecom companies still remains low, but is on the rise from previous years.