India's consumers buy on trust - but belief that brands will work to benefit society falls, according to latest Edelman report

In recent years, Edelman’s research has shown that as the role of brands in consumer society has expanded, people’s expectations from brands have evolved. As always, brands must provide a reliable product and a rewarding customer experience. But now consumers have many more reasons to question how much they trust a brand. Will it protect their data and privacy? Use automation responsibly? Tell the truth in this era of disinformation? In short: Can consumers trust a brand do the right thing?

Trust in brands is increasingly the pivot around which consumers make their purchase decisions. And once they do so, rewards for the brand multiply with greater attention from their consumers, they also act as brand advocates and even defend a well-loved brand.

These are some of the India findings from the '2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: In Brands We Trust?' 

The report studied consumers in 8 countries including India


The report, done in-house by Edelman, is an eight-country study and shows that the vast majority of consumers across markets, ages, incomes and gender say that brand trust is essential to buying.

Consumers Buy on Trust 

One of the biggest findings of the report is that perhaps, not unexpectedly, trust is emerging as a major reason why consumers buy or don't buy a product. The 'In Brands We Trust?' report stated that 85% of respondents India said that "I must be able to trust the brand to do what is right" as a make or break factor in a purchase. Only quality of the product and its value ranked as a higher influencing factor at 87% each.

The percentage of people who placed high premium in trust was also higher in India (at 85%) than nations such as France (63%) and Japan (70%).

Trusted Brands are rewarded by consumers

Once a consumer in India trusts you, the report shows that buyers reward the brand beyond buying the product. They stay loyal, advocate and even defend the brand:

At the same time, there is cause for concern as according to the report, "Despite consumers’ call for advocacy and brands to reflect their personal beliefs, brands are largely failing the trust test."

Declining Trust in Brand Purpose 

On an average across 8 markets, just one-in-three respondents said that they trust most of the brands they buy and use. In India, the figure at 45% was higher than the 8 nation average of 34%, but still showed low trust in brands.

Over 60% of consumers surveyed in India felt that support for causes was a marketing ploy:

Consumers are wary of cause wash

There is also declining faith among Indian consumers in the impact brands can have on society. On the question, whether it is easier for people to get brands to address societal problems than to get the government to take action, there is a 10 point drop in the number of people agreeing with this statement from last year.

Matthew Harrington, president and global COO, Edelman told PRmoment India that, "Successful community engagement by-products requires being authentic and true to a brand and its company's values. Trustwashing occurs when a brand engages in activity that is seen as hollow, without a genuine call to action or way in which a brand participates in sustained engagement.Brands can foster trust by building on the brand product promise and meeting consumers where there are shared interests or aligned passion for a cause or societal need."

Effective ways to earn brand trust 

The study recommended 5 most effective channel sequences to win the trust through a message from those who are not consumers of the brand.

Results from 8 market average

The study also showed that once consumers have seen a brand message across three different channels of communication, trust in a brand strengthens.

Consumers in India avoiding advertising 

Interestingly for PR practitioners, 87% of consumers surveyed are using strategies to avoid advertising. In fact, there is a 13 point rise in the use of ad blocking technology to 58% from previous years.