COVID-19 soured consumer trust, says UVic-based group

Facebook finishes last in Canadian consumer poll

Of the 342 brand names in the Gustavson Brand Trust Index that people were asked to respond to, Facebook finished last. (AP File Photo/Noah Berger)

When COVID-19 hit Canada the demand for Lysol and Clorox disinfecting products soared, but something else happened too.

A great many consumers who relied on cleaning products during the pandemic also lost trust in the brand due to the “scarcity of their products on shelves,” said Saul Klein, dean of the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria.

Klein spoke about the results released by the Gustavson Brand Trust Index on June 15 that showed Canadian consumer faith in brands is on the decline. This comes even as consumers became more reliant on specific services and products during the pandemic.

“Brands that were unable to make products available to customers during the pandemic saw a decline in trust scores,” Klein said.

READ ALSO: Opinion: Trust in brands critical for big companies

The post-COVID follow up was an addendum to the 2020 annual Gustavson Brand Trust Index report. The research team had initially run the 2020 study between January and February and measured 7,800 Canadian consumer opinions on a range of 342 corporate and product brands. The annual report has been going since 2015 and this year the top three names were Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) and the Canadian Automobile Association tied for the top spot, with Costco third, Dyson vacuums at fourth and Home Depot at fifth.

Of the 342 brand names that people were asked to respond to, Facebook finished last.

Chinese firm Huawei electronics was 341st, likely due to the U.S.A. charging them with international trade malpractice and whose CEO, Meng Wanzhou, has been living in Vancouver under house arrest since 2018.

Twitter was third-to last, part of a decline for social media in general, Klein said.

Following the report’s initial completion, in April, a research team from the Gustavson School of Business carried out a follow-up study to gauge changes in consumer trust in the wake of COVID-19. This study measured opinions from 1,050 Canadians on 105 of the brands in the Trust Index. It was there the study found companies such as Lysol and Clorox were suffering from the scenes of empty store shelves, which were well documented in the news.

The post-COVID-19 results indicated the most trusted brands during the pandemic were Canada Post and Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix.

Overall, the Gustavson Brand Trust Index has shown trust in key institutions has been eroding significantly over the past few years, Klein said.

“The average brand trust scores for all brands surveyed in 2020 are at an all-time low,” Klein said. “[This can] be attributed to the rise in consumer skepticism, with consumers growing more conscious of their purchasing habits while closely watching the values brands stand for.”

READ MORE: Colum: Has social media passed its peak?

The Gustavson Index had shown a decline among the big four Canadian telecom companies, though this year, telecom companies showed significant improvement after the pandemic struck.

Telus is 265th, Shaw 286th, Rogers 324th, Bell 338th, out of the annual report.

One of the most telling takeaways from the annual report is the value and loyalty millennials put on organizations that are socially involved and contribute to a better world. Lush soap company, for example, was the most trusted brand in Canada among ages 18 to 35, due to its history of donating to progressive groups and advocating for many causes.

The Gustavson Brand Trust Index team is hosting a free webinar on Wednesday (June 17) that will discuss what brand trust looks like for businesses post-COVID-19. Guests include Klein; Jeff Walker, CEO of Canadian Automobile Association in North and East Ontario; Sandra Sanderson, senior vice-president, marketing, Sobeys; and Tom Newitt, vice-president of marketing for A&W.

The free webinar starts at 10 a.m. Register by emailing gustavsontrust@uvic.ca.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

CoronavirusUVic

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