June 25, 2009

MORI or Edelman?

Follow-up to Trust: Is it declining? from Schrodinger's C(h)at

According to the regular MORI poll on trust, trust remains relatively constant over time. The percentage of people claiming to trust (say) businesses remains within a + or - 2-3% margin year on year. MORI's is an absolute measure of trust - it asks people the extent to which they trust various groups and organisations.

However, the Edelman Trust Barometer, which is based on a relative measure -  the extent to which people feel they trust (say) businesses more than last year or less than last year, indicates that, in the UK, 67% of people trust companies less (global average is 62).

The Barometer also indicates that there appears to be a link between respondents' trust in businesses to 'do the right thing' and the state of the economy in their respective countries.

A further, regular trust oriented survey from Reader's Digest agrees with the MORI findings: that trust (in absolute terms) remains relatively static. They found little if any change in the extent to which we trust the various professions and in the five years of their 'trusted brand' survey, in 14 of the 20 categories, the most trusted brand has remained static. While in most categories, lower ranked brands switch places, the accolade of 'most trusted' seems to be a hard thing to shift. The categories where the 'most trusted' accolade varies most are, as might be expected, in the more volatile and dynamic markets (e.g. mobile service providers and internet service providers) and in the service markets (where the opportunity for quality variance is highest, e.g. credit cards).

For those familiar with branding research, this 'trusted brand' stability will not come as a major surprise - leading brands remain leading brands because they are leading brands (see the Double Jeopardy theory - which hypotheses that loyalty is lower in less well known brands - e.g. Martin, JAMS, 1973 or Ehrenberg, Goodhardt and Barwise, JM, 1990). And business' current obsession with branding and becoming the leading brand is one result.

Hence, is trust increasing or decreasing? And if there is a strong correlation with the stockmarket or with national economic indicators, is it then more a measure of confidence in the national economy as opposed to a true measure of trust? And is the RD measure more one of 'brand loyalty' as opposed to 'trust'?

Or is this a simple case of semantic error in which several researchers use the same term (trust) to mean different things? And even if they are all using the term trust in a valid, if different (dictionary) sense of the word, how can we (or a business) trust the trust research if the results are incomparable and incompatible?

What, exactly, is being measured?

Can all claim to be measuring trust?

To what extent are the measures 'valid and reliable' (a pre-requisite for any quantitative research)?

Is 'trust in a brand' or 'trust in a profession' a meaningful construct?

MMMMmmmm ....?


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