NEW YORK — With Covid-19 and racial injustice fueling unease, consumers are increasingly putting a premium on trust in brands, weighing it second only to price in purchasing decisions, according to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer Report.

“Trust has become a game changer for brands because it addresses people’s fears about personal safety, most notably vulnerability on health, financial stability, and privacy,” said CEO Richard Edelman. “The long-held practice of standing aside during controversies and crises is no longer an option for brands.”

The brand trust survey found 64% of consumers put price and affordability at the top of the list of most important factors in making purchases.

For 53% of 22,000 respondents in 11 markets (South Africa, Brazil, US, Canada, UK, India, Germany, China, France, Japan and South Korea) brand trust is the second most important factor in weighing purchases, meaning it tops company reputation (48%), performance (43%), how they treat customers (41%) and how easy it is to find and buy (38%).

Other factors in the top 10 in order of importance are treatment of environment (37%), whether materials are sustainably and ethically sourced (31%), treatment of employees (27%) and Covid-19 response (25%).

70% said trusting a brand is more important today than it was in the past. In last year’s brand trust barometer, 81% of the study’s 16,000 respondents in eight countries said brand trust is a deal breaker, or at least a deciding factor, when they are considering a purchase. However, quality (85%), convenience (84%), value (84%) and ingredients (82%) all ranked higher.

This year’s study found 46% of people trust most of the brands they buy or use — a 12-point increase over last year. There were 20-point increases in the US, Brazil and Germany.

81% said the increased importance on brand trust reflects concerns about their own health, financial stability and privacy. 71% are being influenced by how they see brands’ societal impact, the study found.

Globally, 85% of people want brands to “solve my problems,” while 80% want them to solve society’s problems.

People want brands to advocate for change, both by being a positive force in shaping our culture (58%) and by working to make a better future. Given the current pandemic, one in three say it’s more important now for a brand to make them feel safe, and nearly one in three say brands must treat their employees well.

“Brands are seen as having more power than their corporate parents because they are answerable to the belief-driven consumer exercising brand democracy,” said Edelman. “There is a demand for tangible actions, not just communications, for brands to partner with government to find a safe way to return to normal service or to shift the product mix to help people meet the new challenges of life.”

Other key findings include:

  • Advertising doesn’t work in building trust, with nearly seven in 10 people saying they avoid advertising. This is especially true for younger audiences, as 78% of 18-34 year-olds and 73% of 35-54 year-olds use one or more avoidance strategies or tools.
  • Earned is where brand trust is decided. Personal experience (59%), earned media (44%), and peer conversation (39%) were most effective. However, earned media also ranked highest (51%), followed by personal experience (45%) and peer conversation (32%), where brand trust could also be lost. Earned strategy is critical when brand trust is at stake.
  • People responded that the voices they found most influential shared a primary theme: a personal connection to an issue or topic. These voices included industry experts (60%), a person like yourself (59%), brand tech expert (49%), and celebrities that share my hardships (44%), among others.
  • People with high brand trust (75%) will only buy products of that brand, even when the product isn’t the cheapest, and would immediately look into buying new products from that brand. Those with high brand trust (60%) also feel more comfortable sharing personal information and paying attention to a brand’s communications. They (78%) are also likely to share or repost brand content, as well as recommend and defend the brand.
  • Trust acts as a gateway from consideration to purchase to loyalty. Nearly one in two loyal customers have a brand relationship built on the strongest trust level.