Brand marketers know that consumer trust in their products is essential to grow and maintain their customer base. One of the largest consumer brand sectors, the food industry, is facing increasing consumer concern and lack of confidence in the food they buy.
Today consumers have a high level of mistrust, not only in brands but companies, services and governments. The food industry backlash is a highly charged one, as any food crisis triggers social outrage because people have a high level of concern that it will impact their families and vulnerable societies.
According to Amanda Rogaly, Managing Director of FoodSure, a company leading the Honest Brand Movement in South Africa, “When a brand does not act ethically, mishandles a crisis or fails to share information that is truthful and reliable, the impact on their reputation is massive.”
“In a world where consumer loyalty is not guaranteed, the ease of which consumers can switch to a different product and the high numbers of competing brands means manufacturers have to develop new strategies for building or regaining consumer trust.”
Consumers have had their trust in the food industry dented due to many food scandals such as the recent withdrawal of a chemical additive used in the manufacturing of shoe rubber from well-known bread and before this the meat scandal of 2013.
“Trust isn’t a commodity that can be purchased,” says Dion Chang, innovator, creative thinker, visionary and renowned trend analyst at Fluxtrends.co.za. “It is an asset that must be earned through transparency and truthfulness.”
Consumers are asking for more transparency from the food industry in how the food is produced, what it contains, accuracy of the label and they want brands to take responsibility when a mistake is made.
Advice for brands who want to build trust with consumers
Are you an ethical brand?
Consumers want to know that food companies care about their well-being, are ethical and that they will not intentionally mislead them. Consumers want to know that they can count on that brand to put their interests first before profits and that take responsibility for any mishaps that may occur.
Consumers want brands to give them information that will affect them even if it is negative. Remember today nothing can be kept hidden from savvy consumers, so if you try to lie or bury the truth you will erode their trust in you. Consumers have the right to make an informed decision on what they buy. Consumers are also seeking information that is easy to understand and which is made available quickly.
Consumers want you to give them reliable, accurate information that does not leave important facts out.
Staying true to your brand promise
Trust is eroded when a consumer believes a product is no longer living up to their brand promises. If a brand promises to provide high quality then if quality is compromised, trust is compromised.
“Understanding the key factors listed above means brands must build new strategies beyond pure marketing and promotional offers,” she explains. “Food brand marketers need to build trust strategies into their plans.”
Trust building strategies
Trust strategies have to be integrated within the organisation
You can have the best marketing campaigns in the world, if consumers don’t trust you because you act unethically or try to conceal the truth they will switch to another brand. Trust comes from consistently making good products that live up to their brand promises and by acting in a way that is ethical – to consumers, the environment, and communities. This means within every aspect of the supply chain, in the marketing and information to consumers and in the way the organisation behaves, a dedication to trust is required.
Bring in independent and credible third parties to validate your brand offering
What someone else says about your brand is valued more highly than what you say. In an era of mistrust people turn to those they view as credible and independent to give them advice. Whether it is a consumer body, a person they like and trust, a consumer watchdog or a celebrity, the power of third party endorsements is massive.
Build better engagement strategies to find out what your consumers believe is important and integrate these into key business decisions. If you know that consumers don’t trust what you put on a label, be willing to have it independently tested and verified and then TELL your consumers all about it. Another key thing to understand is that consumers want you to tell them what is inside the product they are buying so they can make an informed choice. It is all about choice. Try to sell them a product that has an ingredient in it they don’t know about and you will feel their wrath as happened recently with the bread scandal.
One step that FoodSure has committed itself to on this road to building trust in food brands in South Africa, is to provide consumers with a way to instantly identify accuracy of the label against what is inside the product. FoodSure provides independent food verification through expert food testing partners with accredited labs and a team of legal, marketing and food experts.
Rogaly adds, “We encourage food producers and retailers to have their products independently tested so that the contents can be verified against the label, allowing them to bear a SureMark. By undergoing the testing process and leveraging the SureMark stamp and advertising opportunities, companies are able to educate consumers that they are an Honest Brand, resulting in higher product sales.”
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