Apple’s recent legal battle with the FBI may be over, but the larger discussion around privacy, trust, and government overreach won’t soon fade away. The situation was yet another indicator of a shift in sentiment that directly impacts brands and public institutions alike.
Ten years ago, it would have been unfathomable to predict anything other than widespread support of the government’s request to unlock a terrorist’s phone, in this particular case to obtain intel about the deadly attacks that shook San Bernardino on December 2, 2015. This is, after all, the same public that largely backed the Patriot Act in 2001, which authorized unprecedented government oversight of private activities.
But a relatively short time later, the data tells a very different story. In a recent survey of the general population, Kelton found that the majority of Americans not only trust Apple more than the FBI– they also overwhelmingly put their in trust private companies over the government (63% versus a paltry 37%).
You don’t have to be a professional researcher to recognize this profound shift. It takes only a cursory glance around at the current political landscape, a couple of hours watching political commentary on TV, even a short bar-side conversation to find evidence of government dissolution on both sides of the political spectrum. If the unprecedented nature of the current election cycle is any indication, these newly dominant beliefs will bring about concrete changes (for better or for worse).
The move away from blind trust in the establishment isn’t just relevant in the political sphere– it has serious implications for brands, too. More than anything, our findings are an indicator of the critical importance of trust in the modern consumer experience. Of those who trust in Apple, nearly two out of five attributed that trust to the seemingly disconnected fact that they like Apple’s products. Apple’s leadership in the technology category was also a prominent reason, and a full 44% of people claimed to trust Apple simply because they’ve never had a reason not to.
This perceptual change is not going away any time soon. Half of the Gen Xers and Millennials surveyed reported having a greater amount of trust in Apple– substantially more so than older generations. Perhaps this is because these demographics are more familiar with (and have a longer tenure using) Apple’s products, and are therefore more comfortable with the idea of trusting a brand they’ve come to rely on daily. More likely, it’s a byproduct of younger generations’ demands for more transparency from the businesses they buy from. In meeting those demands, companies have earned the trust of their consumers.
“Avoid succumbing to pressure from stakeholders to maximize profits at the expense of your ethical code.”
Brands need to anticipate, leverage, and prolong this trend in order to harness the full benefits of the current climate. They can start by improving in obvious areas: bumping up operational transparency, investing in stellar customer support teams, and making ethical business decisions. Avoid succumbing to pressure from stakeholders to maximize profits at the expense of your ethical code; exploitative labor contracts and subpar quality standards can no longer be kept under wraps in the information age, and they’ll kill your brand’s reputation in the long run. Best to make like Google and ‘Don’t Be Evil.’
It’s true that brands from certain categories are inherently able to foster trust much more easily than others, but this shift is a valuable opportunity and important consideration across categories– from baby clothes to Big Pharma. Build quality products fairly and transparently, and the payout of earning the trust of today’s consumer will more than cover any added costs.