The final day of Customer Expo 2019 featured a general session entitled “How Does ‘Trust’ Affect Loyalty: A Cross-Category Examination of How ‘Trust’ Affects Customer Behavior and What Marketers Can Do About It,” delivered by Robert Passikoff, President of Brand Keys.
Brand Keys offers research-based consultancy, and the organization measures loyalty and engagement. Passikoff and team are constantly studying what will make consumers loyal and what will make them behave better towards a particular brand. He emphasized that Brand Keys employs a behavioral model, not a market model.
Passikoff stated that he is more interested in results than processes. He looks to see whether brands are driving engagement, and he clarified that he was referring to emotional engagement—not how much time consumers spend on a brand’s app or how many consumers play a game offered as a digital experience. What he’s looking for, he said, is “something to increase emotional engagement so [customers] are going to behave better to your brand.”
Passikoff displayed a slide with a quote from David Ogilvy. The quote read, “The consumer does not behave as he says, he does not say what he thinks, and he does not think what he feels.” Passikoff believes that this statement has never been truer than now.
The statement also explains why Brand Keys explores consumer psychology. According to Passikoff, consumers rarely reference the irrational, emotional reasons they enjoy certain products. For example, Passikoff has found that men over the age of 50 who have purchased sports cars typically indicate that they made the purchase for practical reasons (e.g., “my kids have grown up, and I need less space”), when, of course, the real appeal of a luxurious vehicle is purely emotional.
Brand Keys’ research shows that, in 2019, consumers approach brands on an 80-20, emotional-to-rational basis. It’s all about feelings now, unless you’re offering an especially practical commodity, such as salt for the winter. At this time, the most important emotional driver, as shown in Brand Keys’ yearly Loyalty Engagement Index, has become trust.
Passikoff defines trust as “an antecedent for loyalty.” He stated that trust is an engagement factor in every product or service category. He also believes that it has become the indispensable connective tissue between brands and consumers.
According to Brand Keys’ research, expectations for the single value of “trust” have increased by over 250 percent each year. The normal range is from 2 percent to 25 percent. Crucially, Passikoff made the case that changes in trust affect all brands. The latest Index shows that this increased emphasis on trust has occurred in 95 of the 100 categories studied.
Passikoff emphasized that going forward, marketers must look at where trust resides in their sector, because as trust increases, loyalty increases. He said, “Trust doesn’t come with a refill. Once it’s gone, it’s probably not coming back.” He stated that loyal customers are six times more likely to give a brand the benefit of the doubt, but ultimately, trust is never guaranteed.

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