A study released by the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business suggests that Canadians’ trust in brands is deteriorating.
The study is called the Gustavson Brand Trust Index, which investigates consumer trust, the factors that affect it, and the brands that succeed at it.
In a press release issued by the Gustavson School of Business, the institution suggests that the low consumer trust isn’t just an outlier for this year, rather a slide in trust has been happening for some time.
“While trust in key institutions has been eroding significantly over the past few years, the average brand trust scores for all brands surveyed in 2020 are at an all-time low,” said Saul Klein, dean of the Gustavson School of Business.
Klein points to the rise in consumer skepticism, with consumers becoming more conscious of their purchasing habits while keeping track of what brands stand for.
An initial study of brand trust was conducted by the academic institution between January and February earlier this year. It looked at 7800 Canadian consumers’ opinions about 342 very well-known corporate and product brands across 27 categories. This study showed that Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), Canadian Automobile Association, Costco, Home Hardware and Home Depot topped the charts as Canada’s most trusted brands.
As a result of COVID-19, the research team mobilized a follow-up study in April to gauge changes in consumer trust for a sub-set of brands. This study measured opinions from 1,050 Canadians of 105 brands from the original list.
Canada Post and Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix jumped to the top of the list – two brands that were both involved on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other brands that saw trust rise in the post-pandemic survey included the Weather Network, Interac and grocery stores like Loblaws, Sobeys, Walmart and the Real Canadian Superstore. The brand index highlights the fact that stores like Loblaws and Walmart were among the first major Canadian food and drug retailers to give front-line workers a raise during the COVID-19 pandemic, which equated to jumps on the trust scale.
On the other hand, companies like Uber and Lyft promised workers paid leave if they were affected by the virus or were quarantined. Many stories, however, reached the media of workers struggling to get help. Consequently, this resulted in Uber and Lyft, as well as SkipTheDishes and Amazon to receive low trust scores on employee treatment. Klein also points out that the availability of certain products during the pandemic seemed to play a factor as well.
“Brands that were unable to make products available to customers during the pandemic saw a decline in trust scores,” said Klein. “For example, despite the fact that Lysol and Clorox enjoyed increased demand, they lost trust among consumers due to the scarcity of their products on shelves.”
When looking at the initial 2020 study, the index suggests millennials are less trusting compared to other generations, assigning loyalties to brands that proactive look for ways to solve long-standing social issues.
For example, LUSH — with its history of donating to progressive groups and advocating for many causes — was the most trusted brand among the younger generation.
According to the 2020 Gustavson Brand Trust Index, the pandemic reinforced the need for brands to focus on their supply chains.
“For an organization to be trusted and seen as credible, it must ensure the availability and competitiveness of its products,” reads the study.
Other key findings from the study show that trust in Canadian telecom companies has risen since the beginning of the pandemic. This is a change from the results of previous years, which showed telecom companies were struggling to gain trust as nearly all companies saw declines in their brand scores.
The index also highlighted that brand innovation contributes to trust, but not if it comes at the expense of other values.
You can read the full Gustavson Brand Trust Index here.