In a world where fear levels are rapidly on the rise, brands are often providing a sense of security for consumers, according to a new study from Edelman.

Edelman’s survey, which polled 8,000 people in eight countries, found that those fears center largely on issues of personal safety, economic security and quality of life. Brands that are seen as alleviating those anxieties are trusted four times as much as those that aren’t.

That trust is becoming more important to consumers. The study found that the net importance of trust as a factor in purchasing decisions was up 28 points. High trust levels also made respondents more likely to share personal information with a brand, share or repost content about it, or pay attention to its advertising.

Edelman Survey
2020 Edelman Trust Barometer - Special Report: Brands Amidst Criris

When it comes to who consumers rely on to deliver the message about a brand’s trustworthiness, regular users of the brand are the top pick (58 percent), followed by experts (51 percent). Celebrities (35 percent) and influencers (34 percent) lagged behind.

Brands are also facing a greater expectation that they will play a role in solving both the personal and societal problems that are raising fear levels. More than half of the survey respondents (55 percent) said that brands can do more to solve social ills than governments can, and the same number said that it is easier to get brands to address social problems than to get governments to take action.

The respondents also voiced a desire to see brands back up their opinions with action. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) said that for their trust in a brand to increase, that brand would need to take action to help workers and communities, while only 36 percent said that just a promise would increase their trust level.

They were also skeptical of brands that engage in “trust-washing” (using important societal and political issues simply as a marketing ploy to sell more of their product). Well over half of respondents (62 percent) said that too many brands engage in that practice.

As regards how brands should be responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, respondents placed safety above the economic bottom line. Well over half (61 percent) said that public safety should be the top priority when it comes to encouraging people to return to stores, restaurants and other public venues after lockdown orders are lifted.

Globally, downplaying the upcoming holiday season was favored by 56 percent of respondents. However, the US stood out for being the only country where less than half (49 percent) of respondents agreed.

The “Brands Amidst Crisis” study was based on an eight-market (Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, the UK and US) online survey conducted between Oct. 24 and 30, and a qualitative study of consumers in India, the UK and US that was conducted between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2.