Trust is Beautiful


Non-aggressive. Timeless. Relatable. Enduring. Dependable. Stable. These are the words Pantone chose to describe its 2020 Color of the Year selection, Classic Blue, which “re-centers our thoughts” and “fosters resilience.” Like 2019’s Living Corala, this year’s selection focuses on calm and peace in an increasingly uncertain environment.

One year ago, I noted that political, environmental and economic uncertainty had generated an appetite for the familiar and safe. Things are no different today—indeed, these factors have only increased in intensity.

Perhaps surprisingly, consumers don’t necessarily stop spending in these high-intensity environments. A compelling 2017 analysisb of French consumers found that these societal disruptions have little impact on shopper behavior—so long as income and overall employment figures remain favorable.

However, how they spend their money can be shaped by uncertainty. Recent data from Salesforcec showed that 54% of consumers don’t believe companies operate in their customers’ best interest. This presents a significant opportunity for startups and legacy brands to stand apart with end-to-end credibility. How, then, can brands in 2020 build consumer trust?

  • Minimal complexity: Brand promises, consent language, return policies and more should be as clear and simple as possible to ensure consumers know exactly what they’re getting and endure as little friction as possible in their brand experience.
  • Transparency: From data collection to safety to supply chain and corporate practices to brand/product promises, brands should give consumers maximum visibility to instill a sense of security.
  • Data control:. Consent controls, privacy settings, and transparency on collection and usage practices should be front-and-center.
  • Authenticity: From founder stories and brand history/legacies to brand messaging and marketing, genuine connections are critical.
  • Shared values: Simply put, consumers trust companies that walk the walk when it comes to ethics, business practices and support for relevant causes.
  • Brand evangelizers: Trust begets trust. Whether through reviews, influencer mentions, word of mouth or social media, brand cheerleaders can compound market goodwill and sales.
  • Easy, open communication: Brands should be easy to reach across every touchpoint and, conversely, listen closely wherever consumers are talking.

It’s hardly a stretch to declare trustworthy brands as obvious winners in uncertain times, but the execution is easier said than done. Those who do it right will be well rewarded. And so will their customers.


a“Escape to Comfort,” Page 6, January 2019;

bElena Holodny, “Politics matters for economics—but maybe not in the way you think,” May 13, 2017;

cRobert Klara, “Consumers’ Trust in Brands Has Fallen to a New Low. Surprised? Probably Not,” September 11, 2019;

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