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Branded For Life: How Companies Like Google Target Trust And Loyalty

Corporate titans are looking to build consumer relationships with the oldest tool in the book: trust.

At the intersection of a macro trend and a consumer trend is the opportunity for brands to step up and fill a void to create meaningful, trustworthy relationships with consumers. Marred from events following the global financial meltdown to recent exposés of misbehavior throughout the world, today’s cultural environment is one in which trust still needs to be earned. Marry this with the fact that, despite how digitally connected we are, there’s been a decrease in physical human interaction. In this environment, it provides brands the opportunity to earn that trust and form and deepen relationships with consumers. In the marketplace, we see brands doing this with two strategies: providing solutions and demonstrating how they can be with consumers throughout the stages of their lives and becoming a trusted partner, always by their sides.

Google is an example of a brand employing the first strategy to become a "brand for life." For its Google Chrome product, the company’s communications strategy has taken a "lifetime" approach, demonstrating how its bevy of offerings can be used at multiple points in one’s life. For instance, Google’s "Dear Sophie" campaign is based on a true story and shows how a father kept a digital scrapbook of his daughter’s life by using Gmail, YouTube, and Picasa to capture important memories from the day she was born through her toddler years.

In another commercial, "Jess Time," Google Hangout is shown to play a primary role in a father’s attempt to stay close with his daughter as she transitions to college life. Google is promising to be there for all the moments that count.

Subaru is another brand trying to deepen consumer connections by building lifelong relationships with its owners, positioning themselves as a trustworthy partner. As expressed in its ad, "Best Friend," the company markets its automobiles as a reliable choice for all the stages in one’s life when an XV Crosstrek is likened to a man’s faithful dog, equally devoted to him as he transitions from being single to starting a family. The commercial underlines Subaru’s commitment to provide consistently dependable cars and be a brand that owners can continually count on every time they turn to purchase a new car throughout their lifetime, stating "we’re lucky, it’s not every day you find a companion as loyal as a Subaru."

Wells Fargo also positions itself as a trusted partner in its "Together We’ll Go Far" campaign. The TV ads feature families at different points in their lives and show how Wells Fargo helps them achieve their "life stage goals." In one ad, called "College," parents wonder if their son is ready for college and if they themselves are prepared to finance it, but after they are shown spending time with a Wells Fargo representative, the ad concludes with the parents dropping their son off at his dorm. More recently, Wells Fargo has also been positioning itself in a similar vein with small business owners—as partners in launching and sustaining small businesses. And their actions follow: this past fiscal year, the company approved a record amount of small business administration (SBA) loans—$1.24 billion—making them the leading SBA 7(a) lender in dollar volume.

Today brands have an opportunity to go beyond delivering just product functions and their related emotional benefits to laddering even higher to more meaningful human-related benefits such as trust, reliability, and support. When brands approach their relationships with consumers with this type of human perspective, they can earn real loyalty that lasts beyond just point-in-time product usage, building bonds that can last a lifetime.

Kathy Oneto is Vice President of Brand Strategy at Anthem Worldwide, where she leads client and brand engagements across a range of industries. Oneto is the creator and editor of Anthem’s quarterly Sightings report, which provides inspiring observations from around the globe.

[Image: Flickr user Ben Husmann]

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  • Doug Levy

    Great article, Kathy.  

    For brands to engender the kind of trust that you're talking about, many need to deepen their understanding of trust.  

    Though the term has been used for a long time in the business world, to many trust is simply a way to sell more.  I believe that thinking of trust as just another mechanism for influencing transactions is like thinking about a child as just another tax deduction!

    We know in our own lives -- in the relationships that we form with spouses and close friends -- that trust is more than that.  Though trust is better felt than explained, I think of trust as having 3 components: 1) credibility (delivering on promises), 2) care (attending to the success of all parties), and 3) congruency (demonstrating similar values, beliefs, or purpose). 

    Thanks for your additions to this important dialogue on trust!  I enjoyed the ideas and examples.

    Doug Levy @douglevy1:twitter 
    CEO, MEplusYOU and co-author Can't Buy Me Like (to be published on 3/7)

  • Chris Reich

    The main premise, that building trust is important to securing brand loyalty is true. I just wouldn't use Google model for trust building.

    Google dominates search so businesses pay to be included. Android is becoming dominant in off the desktop OS so we are adopting Android tablets and phones. Of course, YouTube is the dominant video platform. None of these Google planks achieved dominance through trust---in fact, scour the forums and see just how displeased people are with Google's MicroSoft like stranglehold using G+ as the rope.

    Google offers great stuff but I don't believe trust would come to mind if you polled a million Google consumers.

  • Kathy Oneto

    Fair comments, Chris.
    Where I was using Google to demonstrate this point is in how they are demonstrating to consumers how their product solutions can be used for times throughout stages of their lives (there for them over time). For me, it ladders their products to a higher level than their functional use. They aren't just the default search engine, but a source of tools that can help you connect throughout different times in your life. Interestingly, in these examples, Google focuses on products that are not just the default solution out there.
    Appreciate your perspective.

  • Eric Brody


    Clearly, the ability to build trust in a very skeptical world in which we've too often been let down is precious.  

    But actions speak louder than words, so I was glad that you paid this off with your Wells Fargo example. We've all heard (way too often), those two dreaded and kind of shallow words "trust me."  

    While communication and intention is a good starting point, demonstration is where the rubber meets the road. And that's what a jaded consumer is going to be demanding. 

  • Kathy Oneto

    Hi Eric,
    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment -- the proof is in the pudding, if you will. Trust gets built up over time when a brand delivers on its promises.  Behaviors speak louder than words, and it's a brand's collective actions that impact a consumer's perception.
    Appreciate the comment.