You Can't Always Trust Trust Research

Brandweek reported on a study done by Zogby Interactive about the trust consumers have in a number of brands, and the article made a big deal about how non-social media brands had higher “trust” levels than social media brands:

“49% of respondents said they trust Apple “completely” or “a lot,” matching the number who said the same about Microsoft and Google. Apple’s “trust a little” or “not at all” total (36%) was lower than that of Microsoft and Google (both 46%), with a higher “not sure” tally for Apple making up the difference.

13% of respondents said they trust Facebook completely or a lot, vs. 75% trusting it a little or not at all. The numbers were similarly negative for Twitter (8% completely/a lot vs. 64% a little/not at all, with another 28% not sure).”

On the face of it, these numbers surprised me. Probably because I spend too much time on Twitter (AKA AppleFanBoyVille), I never would have guessed Microsoft’s trust number would be as high as Apple’s.

But in evaluating these results, we can’t stop at “the face of it.” At the core of this (get it?) is a more important issue: What the hell does the researcher mean when it asks “how much do you trust” this or that brand? How much do we trust those brands to do what? To protect our data? To deliver good products? To do the right thing by its customers?

The other thing that is potentially troubling about the research is the methodology. Best as I can tell from Zogby’s press release, respondents were not asked if they do business with those brands before being asked to rate how much they trust them.

If I were designing the survey, not only would I have asked that, but I would have inquired to what extent the respondent sees him/herself as a loyal customer to the brand. Because I’d want to know if customers of the brand have a higher trust perception than non-customers, and if “loyal” customers have a higher trust perception than less loyal customers.

Bottom line: With all due apologies to Zogby, this research is pretty useless. It says nothing about the levels of trust consumers truly have with these brands — that is, what they actually trust or distrust — and does more to get Zogby’s name in the press than it does anything else.

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One thought on “You Can't Always Trust Trust Research

  1. Good point Ron, to me it is more of a “popularity” contest. Which of these brand names do you know? Or even use? It would be interesting to see if the trust levels are comparable to the market share – companies with high level of sales are also seen as “trustworthy”

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