Brand Trust: Easy Come, Easy Go

I was shopping at a Woolworths Supermarket in Sydney recently, looking for a peanut butter that is 100% crushed peanuts – the Sanitarium product I had like has not been on the shelves for a couple of months.

In the health food section I noticed a range of products under the “Macro Wholefoods” brand. Previously Macro had run a chain of wholefoods supermarkets, and had been a respected brand for people wanting to make healthier choices. Macro Wholefoods was bought by Woolworths and the stores closed, although the brand is now making its way onto Woolworths’ shelves, in their health food section.

Happily I found they had a peanut butter that met my desire for 100% peanuts. I also needed tomato sauce (similar to ketchup for American readers), and knowing that tomato sauce is generally quite high in sugars, grabbed a bottle of the Macro Wholefoods Organic Tomato Sauce.

When I got home, I compared the nutritional information on the Macro product with that on a bottle of the Heinz brand “Big Red”. I was quite shocked to to find that on all counts, the Macro product is less healthy than the Heinz.

Compare the following stats for nutritional information per 100ml, comparing the Macro Wholefoods Organic Tomato Sauce vs. Heinz Big Red

  • Energy 656kJ vs. 395kJ
  • Sugars 32.2g vs. 18.2g
  • Sodium 540mg vs. 355mg

I had implicit trust in the Macro brand, and now my trust in that brand is zero. Of course, caveat emptor (“buyer beware”) applies here, but there is a caveat vendor as well. As a marketer its difficult to gain the trust of your buyers, but its very easy to lose it. Lets discuss this concept of Brand Trust.

The important question here is: “why is brand trust an important factor in the relationship between a business and its customers?”

In the example above, Woolworths appears to have bought the Macro Wholefoods brand, at least in part, in order to take advantage of the upsurge in interest for healthier eating options. Knowing that the Woolworths brand itself is associated with mainstream products, it cleverly decided to buy (in this case) an alternative brand to gain the trust of its customers looking for healthier options.

Not only does the new brand associate with key terms like health-consciousness, wholefoods and organic foods, it is also a premium brand, for which Woolworths is charging a premium price.

A premium customer, however, is often one that is likely to check up on facts. Finding that the Macro Wholefoods brand does not necessarily mean healthier, I no longer have trust in that brand. It is no longer a premium brand in my mind, and I am not likely to pay a premium price for the brand. In fact I am likely to go elsewhere for my health food needs. Woolworths has lost the opportunity to prove to me that it is a viable alternative for healthier food choices.

If a company is going to invest in a brand, it needs to provide quality control to ensure that the brand promise is delivered upon, otherwise it will be a commodity (at best).

A business develops a brand, but the value of a brand is no more than that placed in it by its customers.

Lessons for the Customer Experience

So how does a business protect a brand? Its a simple concept thats not always easy to implement:

  1. Establish brand values and ensure that all product attributes reflect those values
  2. Establish a quality management process to make sure the brands values are being delivered upon
  3. Listen to your customer. Social media tools provide a valuable opportunity to communicate with customers and learn about their needs, wants and aspirations.

As Jay Ehret said in The Marketing Spot post “What Makes a Brand Awesome“:

The path to branding awesomeness is 1) a promise 2) a personality and 3) unwavering focus on that promise

Having looked at brand trust, we know that brand trust an important factor in the relationship between a business and its customers because without it a brand is doomed to commodity value at best, and that brand values have no value if a customer doesn’t trust them! Ensure that as you build a brand you know your brand values, and deliver on them consistently, and listen to your customers constantly.


Photography enthusiastic, writer, hiker and diving geek from Canberra (and Sydney), Australia. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

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