The Part Trust Plays in Building Culture

March 10, 2020 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

Picture in your mind your five most enduring relationships. What do they look like? Your spouse or partner? Your business associates? Your pastor, priest, or rabbi? When we think about relationships, most often we default to the people we’re close to. But odds are, with the exception of your parents, your most enduring relationships aren’t with people. They’re with the brands you love. How long have you eaten your favorite cereal? Poured your favorite soft drink? Worn your favorite athletic shoes?

For most of us, our longest-lasting relationships go back 20, 30, or 40 years. And whether they’re romantic, professional, or with a favorite brand, they’re all built on the same foundation – trust.

Recently, global tech company Morning Consult conducted a survey of the most trusted brands “based on the largest study of its kind to date, with an average of 16,700 interviews per brand for nearly 2,000 brands.” To determine which brands were most trustworthy, they asked consumers one simple question:

“How much do you trust each brand to do what is right?”

Not, “do you trust the ingredients on the label?” or “do you trust the brand to taste good, last for a long time, or hold up against the elements?” They asked, “How much do you trust each brand to do what is right?” That’s cultural.

In Creating A Category of One, Joe Calloway puts this as simply and as beautifully as I’ve ever seen it. In the book, Calloway says, “Your brand is what people think it’s like to do business with you.” That statement is completely predicated on trust and culture. Consumers support brands they believe will deliver a positive experience. Who will do what they say they’ll do. Brands who will do the right thing.

Brands with poor cultures don’t do any of those things consistently. They can’t.

In Morning Consult’s survey, they ranked the 25 Most Trusted Brands in America based on the number of consumers who answered “How much do you trust each brand to do what is right?” with the answer “a lot.” Here are the 25 brands that made the list:

2. Amazon
3. Google
4. PayPal
5. The Weather Channel
6. Chick-fil-A
7. Hershey
8. UPS
9. Cheerios
10. M&Ms
11. Dove
12. Tide
13. Ziploc
14. Clorox
15. FedEx
16. Tylenol
17. Colgate
18. Crest
19. AAA
20. National Geographic
21. Netflix
22. Heinz
23. Campbell’s
24. Home Depot
25. Walmart

It’s a fascinating list. At the top end, 42% of consumers polled said they trusted the United States Postal Service to do what’s right “a lot,” while at the tail end, 32.5% expected the same out of Walmart.

What does it say that out of 16,700 people polled, only 42% expected the most trusted brand in America to do what’s right most of the time? It tells me brands have a lot of work to do building better cultures and using those cultures to build stronger relationships with their customers.

There is a link between brand trust and culture.

For the past year, I’ve been exploring this link between brand trust and culture, and in April, my co-author and I are publishing our thoughts in a book called The Voice of the Underdog: How Challenger Brands Create Distinction By Thinking Culture First. In it, we look at what makes a company a challenger brand and, more importantly, how successful challengers of all sizes use culture to create extraordinary brand distinction with a blueprint for building a better culture and trust with both their teams and their consumers.

Trust comes from the inside out. And it’s not something brands can simply declare, or manufacture with an ad campaign no matter how genuine. Trust is built over time by company cultures that elicit consistent, congruent actions. In special instances like Tylenol’s quick response to the 1982 poisonings in Chicago, or Starbucks’ response to two African-American men being erroneously arrested in one of their Philadelphia stores, damaged trust can be repaired, but even then, it takes doing the right thing in a highly visible way coupled with equally genuine actions over time.

Consumer trust starts with company culture.

Think of what it’s like for your employees, your suppliers, your partners and your consumers to do business with you. Is it an incredible experience? One so good they tell other people about it? Or is it just ok, uninspired, or even toxic? The most empowering thing you can do for your brand is to build a great culture grounded in trust and populate it with people who will not only foster that culture, but add to it. Remember the poll? Only 42% of people asked said they expected the most trusted brand in America to do the right thing a lot.

Get your culture right and you just might find yourself on that list.

MIKE SULLIVAN  is president at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

For more about LOOMIS, or to discuss how we can help your company succeed, CLICK HERE

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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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