Nokia ranks first as India’s most trusted brand in ‘The Brand Trust Report: India Study 2011’ of Trust Research Advisory (www.trustadvisory.info). Tata takes the second spot, with a gap of 26 per cent, and Sony, the third, 18 per cent behind Tata.

Approaching ‘brand trust’ from the viewpoints of the ‘trustor’ (the one who trusts), ‘trustee’ (the one who is trusted), and the ‘environment,’ the authors build the trust gauge on three levels of foundation, viz. capacity to trust, perception of positive intent, and relevant competence.

Non-threatening ambience

The capacity to trust, one learns, is dependent on three essential composites. One, the ambience should be non-threatening. Any environment which has a hint of competition, manipulation, intimidation or coercion is immediately seen as a source of threat (gross or subtle) by the trustor, the book cautions. “Non-threatening ambience can be reinforced by displaying cultural neutrality, absence of bias and, an overall concern for safety.”

The second composite is the showcasing of shared interests, symbolic of common cultural and social backgrounds, and therefore leading to an expectation of better mutual understanding. Through a congruence of values, beliefs, and thoughts, the ‘shared interests’ composite of the brand can help in higher transactional predictability, the authors guide.

Empathy, a complex sequence

Display of empathy is the third composite, which the authors consider to be more important than the other two in the capacity to trust. Empathy is a complex sequence, which shows and reinforces an emotional connect between target and the brand, they describe. “It is the ability of the brand to step outside of itself and see the world through the eyes of its audience. The advantage of this ability is that it allows the brand to quickly perceive new opportunities with the audiences.”

Interestingly, on ‘empathy’ it is Dettol that tops the list, whereas Infosys is at the bottom, with rank 50, preceded by Intel, Microsoft and BMW. In ‘non-threatening ambience’ the top four ranks go to financial institutions, LIC, SBI, HDFC, and ICICI. At the bottom of the heap, in this composite, are Vodafone, Nike, Pepsi, Haier, and Apple. The overall topper Nokia, which ranks 8 in empathy, appears in the sixth position for ‘shared interest,’ where the top four ranks go to Idea, Lakme, HP, and Bata.

Perception of positive intent

As for the second foundation, the perception of positive intent, the determinants are display of sincerity (inner and outer), corporate altruism (working for a larger beneficial cause), and enthusiasm (where the brand relationship is charged with vibrancy), the book outlines. “A brand which displays inner sincerity shows high ethical and moral values, self-regulated governance, and integrity. Brands which display outer sincerity do so by showcasing the highest degree of transparency and by commanding genuine respect from their audiences.”

Infosys is ranked number one in both ‘display of sincerity’ and ‘corporate altruism’; and Apple, which is ranked 50 in corporate altruism, is ranked 2 in enthusiasm, after Pepsi.

Showcasing competence

The third foundation is about showcasing competence, and it has four composites, viz. outward appearance (‘packaging’), perceived competence (based on physical and non-physical cues), commanding respect (by taking into account several aspects such as accountability, high skill, leadership, values, and personality of the brand), and accepting responsibility (characterised by professional poise and balance, and standing by the decisions in the face of adversity and failures).

It can be exciting to see BMW rank 1 in outward appearance and commanding respect, while the technology companies Microsoft, Intel, Apple, and IBM get the top four ranks in perceived competence. LIC, the topper in the first of the composites (non-threatening ambience), finds itself in rank 49 for outward appearance, and 50 for enthusiasm, and perceived competence. And Dettol, the rank 1 in empathy, is at 50 for accepting responsibility.

A detailed study that can trigger introspective attention.

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