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Steven Chen, CSUF Mihaylo College of Bus/Econ  

Click here for Steven Chen's Bio

Friday, March 19, 2010
Five everyday problems I seek to fix
Friday, May 14, 2010
The Joneses have it all
What is trust's role in O.C. consumption?
Marketing research has shown that trust can be decomposed into five dimensions: ability, concern, consistency, connection and sincerity. A recent study conducted by OC METRO on the Most Trustworthy Brands found that O.C. consumers weighted ability and consistency above the other dimensions of trust. I recently had the chance to sit down with OC METRO to talk about why that is. You could watch the video of it here, but I will provide a synopsis below.

What does the survey results say about O.C. consumers?

The finding show that O.C. consumers are more concerned about the performance-based aspects of trust as opposed to the emotional-based aspects such as sincerity and concern.

This is consistent with what is called “calculation-based trust.” When consumers engage in calculation-based trust they are assessing the trustworthiness of firms by evaluating their ability to fulfill orders on time, their overall reliability and whether their products are long lasting and durable. However, this form of trust is fragile at best, because any rupture to performance expectations will also result in a rupture in the consumer-brand relationship.

So to answer the question, this study shows three things about local consumers: that they are more utilitarian in their brand relationships than one might initially think; that they have high-performance expectations; and that they might not be brand loyal when performance expectations are not met.

Why are these five trust measures important for companies?

It is important that a firm’s reputation be linked to trust. Consumers avoid purchasing from firms that they do not trust. A firm’s reputation gets around fast nowadays, due to word of mouth and particularly online word of mouth.

Companies know this. That is why Toyota keeps pushing its apology commercials emphasizing the reliability of the vehicles, in the face of the automaker's recent technology debacles – to gain back consumer trust.

What is the role of trust in capturing consumer allegiance to a brand?

The role of trust in capturing consumer allegiance is two-fold.

The first deals with repeat purchase. Over and over, research has shown us that trust is a key element to successful relationship marketing, especially in environments where there is minimal interaction between the seller and the buyer, such as the online world. Consumer purchase decisions are made on the basis of trust, and consumers will engage in repeat purchase behavior with brands that they trust.

The second deals with transgressions. Research has also shown us that trust can work to a brand’s favor in the event of a transgression. Consumers might forgive a brand for a violation based on past positive experiences with the brand. Such was the case with Harley Davidson. HD is a brand that is built on the values of American patriotism and machismo. But several years ago HD started to manufacture its bikes in China – a violation of the brand. Consumers ultimately forgave them.