Earning The Trust Of Your Audience To Build Sustainable Brand Authority (Troy Sandidge)

by Troy Sandidge

Most people would agree that trust is important in a relationship. We value trust in our friendships, romantic relationships, and between colleagues. But the relationship between a company or brand and its audience and community is equally important to create and sustain trust to build adequate brand authority.

Trust Is The Cornerstone To Establish Brand Authority

Trust in a brand-community relationship is the mutual understanding that the brand is going to consistently deliver what they say they will to the community, and the community will provide feedback to the brand on what they want or need and if they are filling in the void. In the same way with various marketing efforts, trust is a two-way relationship that should ultimately lead to happy customers, community members, engaged audiences, and consistent businesses.

Each marketer, communicator, community builder, and even business executive or business leader needs to ask themselves three questions:

1. Do I trust myself, my product, my service, my message, and/or my mission?
2. Does my community, audience, customers, clients, team, etc, trust me?
3. How can I amplify this trust in order to achieve growth and hit my goals?

Take some time to reflect on these questions and see where you land.

If you don’t have answers to these questions, you may have an identity problem.

This may not be just a marketing issue, it’s one of not understanding the core of your identity as a brand and business.

Without this foundational level of trust, there can be no brand identity.

And without brand identity, there is no brand equity—the power and influence of your brand to increase sales and social impact among your community and beyond.

Trust equals customer buy-in to your brand and enables them to be active members of your growing community. This helps establish brand equity. And brand equity matters because it opens up the possibilities for your business growth.

Trust is the cornerstone and foundation upon which true brand authority is built. It creates a loyal audience and customers who provide a sustainable basis for your company’s operations, community, reach, voice, and domination in your specific space. Furthermore, trust in your brand is essential to creating brand equity, which can be leveraged to achieve your business potential.

Building & Measuring Brand Equity

Brand equity is built on trust between the community/customer/client/audience and the business, which is foundational for any success. Branding can help your business grow through increased market share, premium pricing, and other strategies.

To better understand brand equity, let’s look at the three components:

1. Brand Perception: What customers believe the brand or business represents, not what the company says about itself. This is related to either brand recognition (consumers are familiar with your logo) or brand awareness (consumers know what you do). It’s important that the customers’ brand perception is aligned with the company’s — a misalignment of brand perception means missing out on growth opportunities by not giving the customer what they want.

2. Positive and Negative Effects: Customers will perceive a brand in a specific way as they interact with the product or service on social media, their website, virtual or in-person events, video, livestreams, etc. Their reaction to a brand can be based on factors such as customer experience, quality, or their own preferences. Customer reactions will lead them to either positively or negatively engage with the brand which can impact authority greatly.

3. Resulting Positive and Negative Value: The effects of positive and negative brand perception will manifest in tangible value, such as sales and increased revenue, or intangible value, like how the brand makes people feel.

David Aaker, a former professor at the University of California, Berkeley, popularized the Aaker Brand Equity Model in the 1990s.

In it, he identified five components of brand equity:

  • Brand Loyalty
  • Brand Awareness
  • Perceived Quality
  • Brand Association
  • Proprietary Assets

When each of these aspects of branding is aligned with what the customer needs and wants, trust is built into the business-customer relationship and brand authority takes flight.

Another popular model to understand is Kevin Lane Keller’s Brand Equity Model.

This model views brand equity as a pyramid.

  • Brand Identity (Who Are You?)
  • Brand Meaning (What Are You?)
  • Brand Response (What About You?)
  • Brand Relationships (What About You And Me?)

Do you have a clear, concise answer to these questions?

It’s critical that you do, because they will be the anchor points to creating an effective brand authority strategy for all areas of your business.

The foundation is identity through brand salience and awareness—who are you as a company and brand?

Next is the meaning, determined through brand performance and imagery—what are you, as a company, and what do you offer?

After those have been determined, the model moves to response through consumer judgments and feelings—what about you (the company)?

Finally, it moves to resonance—what about you (the company) and me (the consumer)? This determines whether or not they will buy from you or engage with the brand.

These models are effective for marketers and business leaders to understand where they currently are as a brand in terms of brand equity. It also helps you understand the customer’s journey from brand awareness—they’ve heard about you—to actually purchasing from you and establishing themselves as a loyal customer and part of your community.

Each aspect of brand equity has to do with increasing trust in the business-customer relationship. This trust is built through the consistency with which each aspect of the brand aligns with the customer’s own needs, wants, and expectations from the brand.

To give a few examples, let’s look at an aspect from each model.

Aaker’s model highlights perceived quality as an aspect of brand equity. Imagine a company that positions itself as a high-end company with quality products. If a customer then buys that product but is unhappy and perceives the quality to be low, trust is broken and the customer is unlikely to buy again.

Keller’s model highlights brand imagery as part of Tier Two: Meaning. Imagery can refer to logos or marketing and advertising efforts. So, if a customer sees some excellent advertising for the product but receives something different when they go to purchase, trust is, again, broken, because the meaning is misaligned between the imagery and reality.

From these brief examples, we can see how trust is foundational to building brand equity, which in turn has a number of benefits to the business’ growth and development.

Igniting Brand Equity For Business Growth

As a marketer or business leader, you want to understand these components of brand equity in order to build and improve on them within your growth strategy. Many companies operate on the basis of KPIs (Key Process Indicators) to measure progress and see where there are still areas of improvement.

When it comes to brand equity and assessing the effectiveness of your brand authority strategy, there are three ways to measure it:

  1. Financial metrics such as profitability, revenue, growth rates, or the cost to acquire or retain customers;
  2. Strength metrics such as retention, brand loyalty, social buzz, or mentions;
  3. Consumer metrics such as brand relevance, emotional connection, and brand perception.

Each brand, marketing team, etc. will have different KPIs to measure these things, but it’s important to spend some time developing metrics to measure progress and growth. Some measurements, especially within the financial metric category, are relatively easy to measure. Others, such as brand perception and emotional connection, will have to be collected through creative means such as feedback surveys or focus groups.

Apply E.A.S.T. To Position Yourself To Win The Heart Of Customers

Any campaign, business, or movement that scaled quickly in a very sustainable way probably…

  • was easy to identify, understand, and share;
  • was attractive to the eye, heart, and soul;
  • was so social it transcended audiences, countries, and languages;
  • was there at the right time, platform, and distribution method.

So the way to reach the heart of your customers is by heading E.A.S.T.:

  • Step 1. Make it EASY;
  • Step 2. Make it ATTRACTIVE;
  • Step 3. Make it SOCIAL;
  • Step 4. Make it TIMELY.

Yes, in scope, applying E.A.S.T. is very simple, yet many still fail to implement this when it comes to the variety of marketing, advertising, sales, communication, and branding strategies and tactics for their ideal audience.

There is so much power in simplicity to integrate within your authority strategy.

Now that you understand how to gain the attention of the audience you’re trying to attract with E.A.S.T. for your strategy, we have to go deeper and make that human connection with them by understanding M.I.N.D.S.P.A.C.E., which is a mnemonic for the nine effects on human behavior:

  • Messenger: we are heavily influenced by who is communicating information to us;
  • Incentives: our responses to incentives are shaped by our desire to avoid losses and win something;
  • Norms: we are impacted by what others do and what’s on-trend;
  • Defaults: we all “go with the flow” with our preset thoughts, beliefs, and internal values;
  • Salience: our attention is drawn to things that seem relevant specifically to us;
  • Priming: our actions are influenced by subconscious cues;
  • Affect: our actions can also be powerfully shaped by our emotional associations;
  • Commitments: we seek to be consistent with our promises and reciprocate reactions;
  • Ego: we act in ways that make us feel better about ourselves.

Ask yourself: do your messaging, branding, UX/UI, content strategy, sales blueprint, ads, website, and other communications align, utilize, and consider such things as you execute?

You aren’t fighting the algorithm.

You’re fighting for attention with humans.

So wouldn’t it make sense to speak their language and present your business to be aligned with their behaviors?

In my book Strategize Up, I have a framework called L.E.A.D.S. Generator Blueprint™ that helps you connect to your community and create content that leads to conversations that spark actions that drive conversions.

When you can understand the pain points or joy points of your audience, you can build trust, authority, community, and growth fast when you:

  • Leverage language to launch;
  • Educate and entertain to enchant;
  • Attract and amplify to activate;
  • Dream big and distinguish yourself to drive;
  • Share frequently and support often to shine.

Conclusion & Final Thoughts

Brand equity cannot be ignored. It’s a core piece of the puzzle, working alongside marketing and sales to achieve business growth and success. Brand equity is built on trust between the customer and the company, a foundation that results in loyal customers who advocate for your business.

As you can see from mastering the different levels of branding from the two models presented, to applying E.A.S.T. framework to integrating the human behavior cues within your copy and positioning with M.I.N.D.S.P.A.C.E., to following the L.E.A.D.S. Generator Blueprint™, you can really start connecting with your ideal audience groups in dynamic ways that feel more holistic and human to scale your brand effectively!

Putting this all together, you’ll develop a powerful brand authority strategy that will catapult your business, marketing efforts, and ultimately business growth to the next level.

Troy Sandidge @FindTroy
Strategy Hacker® » I Create Growth Marketing Strategies To Scale Startups