Building Brand Experiences: How Humanising Brands Builds Trust

  • Trusted, authentic voices are increasingly difficult to discern
  • The role of people in representing and humanising brands is growing 
  • Active conversations with brands build trust and are facilitated by physical retail 
  • Beyond passive, one-way communications, voice assistants are enabling dynamic conversations with brands in the trusted family sphere  
  • How can your brand engage in humanised conversation with its customers? 

Last month creative agency Household explored how brands are building trust with customers. In this column, they’ll investigate the role of humanising conversation in building trust for wellness brands. In a post-truth era, who can you trust? 

Using influential voices to speak for your brand
Combined with the wide-reaching power of social media and the infinite potential of increasingly smart tech, we are faced with an era of fake news. From mundane viral scams taking the world by storm to the dangerous political potential of AI news anchors on Chinese TV, trusted voices are increasingly difficult to discern. People now default to disbelief.  

Having and maintaining a trusted voice is a brand’s most valuable asset, while honest, authentic and consistent communications from brands are top customer priorities in the UK and US. 

Target’s new Good & Gather range, which prioritises taste, quality ingredients and ease, features stripped-back packaging with minimal text that focuses on quality assurance, such as making a product’s organic credentials highly visible at a glance. Clear and simple messaging such as this, however, is a one-way channel of communication. 

Our most trusted relationships are those that are continuous, active and two-way — according to McKinsey & Co, 83 percent of millennials trust recommendations by friends and family. And in our increasingly digital world, the role of people in building brand trust is regaining value. 

The more human the source of recommendation, the more people trust it: 79 percent of people say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions, versus 13 percent for brand content (Stackla, 2019). Demand for authenticity, whether perceived or real, is high. 

Tourism Ireland’s ‘Fill your heart with Ireland’ campaign leverages this trust of real peoples’ recommendations by inviting a real Swedish couple to visit Ireland for the first time and film their trip. Heart rate tracking technology determined which parts of the trip made the final cut, building trust in the authentic, enjoyable experience being shown. 

Influencers also enable brands to have a human voice, with 44 percent of Americans staying that they trust influencer recommendations (Toluna, 2019).

Influencers feel like an extension of ‘the trusted friends and family bubble’: watch enough of 18-year-old Youtuber Emma Chamberlain’s videos and you’ll end up feeling like you know her personally thanks to her candid, oversharing signature style. In fact, Chamberlain has become so successful she now sells own-brand hoodies and scrunchies online. And she’s not the only influencer to build a brand out of her online persona. It’s natural then that mainstream brands should turn to influencers to humanise their brand and promote their products, placing the influencer in a twilight zone of trust between family and brand. 

Creating conversation through physical brand experience
Brands need to adopt a dynamic brand voice to engage customers, shifting from passive communication to interactive conversation. When it comes to building or regaining trust with customers, trial, interaction and immersion give customers robust reasons to rely on a brand. 

Beautycounter fills its New York store with wallet-sized cards listing the top 30 ingredients on The Never List; the brand’s list of 1,500 harmful ingredients that it never includes in its products. Customers can use these to inform their purchases at Beautycounter and with other brands too. To amplify this voice of trust, the brand trains its 30,000 sales reps to be activists for safer US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cosmetics regulations, empowering them to be trusted and educative voices in-store. 

People are best positioned to engage in meaningful conversation with customers, particularly as 70 percent of consumers would rather speak to a human customer service representative than engage with a chatbot.

Facebook opted for in-person consultations to regain user confidence after trust in the brand dropped by 66 percent following revelations that Cambridge Analytica inappropriately acquired users’ personal data via the site. Facebook’s data privacy pop up cafés across the UK allowed users to get privacy check-ups and gain advice from experts on how to personalise their privacy settings. Rebuilding brand trust, once lost, is much harder than maintaining it – it will be interesting to see whether initiatives such as this will succeed post-scandal. 

Using tech to enhance human interactions in physical retail
Digitally-native brands are disrupting retail with more physical iterations of DTC brands popping up than ever before. With Treasure Truck, we created an interactive experience designed to feel fresh for every visit, to express the Amazon’s fun, human side. Inspired by the whimsical ice-cream truck, this timeless icon of joyful nostalgia creates the energetic buzz of the carnival. 

The truck is a socially charged, try-as-you-buy experience and mobile fulfilment hub all rolled into one. Customers buy on the app or online and find the truck to engage in-person, enjoy a speedy pick-up or a fun-filled, share-worthy experience. The truck’s bespoke illustrations feature city references and icons to tell the story of local culture, making the brand feel close to home. 

Men’s apparel brand Bonobos also merges the best of offline experience and digital empowerment working together. Bonobos has partnered with Tulip to empower its staff with mobile technology that helps them to recognise customers and personalise service accordingly. Tulip provides access to customers’ profiles, including order history and purchase preferences. This transforms sales assistants into ‘Guides’, trusted advisors that are best equipped to help customers with their individual needs. 

Building Brand Experiences: How Humanising Brands Builds Trust
Image: Amazon

Capitalising on smart technology for direct brand interaction
Smart voice technology allows brands to directly converse with customers in the most literal sense. And according to JWT, 72 percent of regular voice technology users think brands should have unique voices and personalities for their apps. 

You can now change Amazon Alexa’s voice to different languages and regional accents, creating a more personalised, representative and human voice. Couple that with the fact that smart speakers bring the brand into the trusted family sphere of the home, voice assistants can give customers privileged access to brands and allow the brand to play a significant and active role in customers’ lives. 

While the use of voice assistants is set to triple by 2023, according to new analysis by Juniper Research, 68 percent of current users still don’t trust their voice assistants to understand them when making purchases. Physical experience is key to building trust in the benefits of smart technology. 

With Google’s Hardware Store pop up, the brand made voice tech fun and accessible, and established a playful and reliant brand voice, by allowing customers to experience the Google Home Hub in situ. Customers could play music in the Smart Treehouse, follow a recipe in The Kawaii Kitchen showcase, and test the ‘it’s snack time’ voice command to open a snack drawer. 

Smart tech offers brands a unique voice directly into the home, but it also raises the stakes. 54 percent of customers would always choose a chatbot over a human customer service rep if it saved them 10 minutes, according to a survey by Usabilla. But when this goes wrong it can have the opposite of the desired effect: destroying rather than building trust in a brand. 

The immediacy of a voice assistant means that customer expectations of being listened to and understood are raised tenfold. This requires a high level of trust in both the brand and the smart tech itself. 

In our digitally-connected, post-truth world, it can be hard to know who to trust. We believe the opportunity for brands is to craft their voice across the multitude of channels now available — from human service to physical brand experience to digital and graphic interfaces. 

How can your brand engage in meaningful conversation with your customers that they can trust?