Consumer confidence in the economy may be turning around. But don’t look to consumers for a growing trust in established institutions. Whether it’s corporate America or government agencies, consumer trust has dropped between 2010 and 2011. Last year, 54% of consumers said they trusted business to do what is right. This year that percentage has dropped to 46%.  And media companies fare even worse. In 2011, 27% of U.S. consumers trust media outlets to do what is right. That is an 11% drop from 2010. However, there are steps that marketers can take to restore lost trust which could translate to higher sales.

Keep in mind that not all business types are the subject of eroding consumer confidence according to the most recent Edelman Trust Barometer. Automotive is one sector that is regaining consumer confidence. Between 2009 and 2011, the number of consumers who say they trust auto makers has increased from 32% to 49%. But the news is grim for other industries. In the past 3 years, businesses operating in the tech sectors have lost 5 percentage point in consumer trust, dropping from 78% to 73%. And consumers continue to be skeptical of banking institutions, with the percentage of people saying they have trust in this sector dropping from 71% to 25% in the past 3 years.  Automotive is one sector that is regaining consumer confidence. Between 2009 and 2011, the number of consumers who say they trust auto makers has increased from 32% to 49%.

Corporate marketers operating in industries with trust problems can improve consumer opinion by emphasizing the following factors:

  • High quality products/services 69%
  • Transparent/honest business practices 65%
  • Company is trustworthy 65%
  • Company treats employees well 63%

And as marketers spread the news, they should distribute information via media outlets that consumers ages 25 to 64  use to find out about a company:

  • Online search engine 29%
  • Online news sources 19%
  • Print newspapers/magazines 15%
  • Broadcast radio/TV 12%
  • Company website 11%
  • Friends/family 7%
  • Social media 5%

Edelman analysts remind business leaders to use multiple channels and voices to influence consumer opinion. To protect corporate reputation and increase sales, “business must align profit and purpose for social benefit.”

[Source: 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer Findings. Edelman.com. 2011. Web. 2 Mar. 2011]