Why Trustworthy Brands Should Not Be Trusted

Why Trustworthy Brands Should Not Be Trusted

There’s few surprises in the latest list of Australia’s most-trusted brands: Apple, Google and IKEA rate highly, while Qantas, Kodak and Dymocks aren’t doing so well. That’s interesting news for marketers, but consumers should remember a more fundamental lesson: just because you think a brand is trustworthy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t examine and question what it does.

Picture by Daniele Pieroni

Understandably, the latest assessment of brand value is attracting a lot of attention. The Brand Asset Valuator list uses consumer surveys to identify 12 brands as strong “brands of the future” for Australian consumers:

[block] [left]

  • Google
  • Apple
  • IKEA
  • PayPal
  • YouTube
  • Microsoft

[/left] [right]

  • Windows 7
  • eBay
  • Wii
  • Dyson
  • Vegemite
  • Subway

[/right] [/block]

Brands which are experiencing problems include Qantas (no surprise given its decision last year to strand customers so it could resolve an industrial dispute), Kodak (which is essentially broke), Dymocks (which is trying to make money with dubious self-publishing schemesand Mr Sheen (I’m guessing it needs a new TV campaign and to stop using aerosol delivery mechanisms). That list also demonstrates that brand values can be a murky concept. Microsoft produces Windows 7; eBay owns PayPal; Google owns YouTube.

Large companies spend millions of dollars on “brand strategy”, and being a “trusted brand” is a cherished goal. One of the big advantages of being a “trusted” brand is that people will buy your product repeatedly and unquestioningly. That’s very evident in such odd phenomena as people huddling outside an Apple store for a new phone when the same device is on sale elsewhere without a queue or paying twice as much for a name-brand product which isn’t demonstrably different to a store-brand equivalent.

Brands earn that trust in two ways: by providing a good experience, and by bombarding you with marketing messages. Obviously, the first kind of branding is the only one that’s actually relevant. But even if you’ve had favourable outcomes from a brand in the past, that doesn’t mean that you will in the future. Making a purchase simply because you “trust the brand” won’t always lead to a good outcome.

Trusted brands still release monumentally buggy products and do things which disadvantage consumers. I can easily think of examples for the main technology brands on that trusted list:

  • Google’s change to its privacy policies earlier this year attracted widespread condemnation.
  • Apple’s first attempt at offering push email services, MobileMe, was a bug-ridden disaster which it had to kill off.
  • eBay’s attempts to make PayPal the sole payment method saw it incur the wrath of the ACCC.
  • Microsoft released Vista. Enough said.

If you genuinely want to save money and still buy quality products, you need to spend time researching what’s actually available and how well it fits your needs. Past experience may be a factor, but you also need to allow for the possibility that the newest version isn’t great. (Indeed, from that perspective, being an early adopter is often a bad idea. Products rarely hit the market in a highly-tested form these days. No-one knew the iPad’s battery would end up being monumentally warm for some users because it was kept a secret virtually up to release.)

That takes effort, and many of us are frankly too lazy. We stick with the familiar because it seems like the easy choice. If that’s what you do, you have no-one to blame but yourself if something goes wrong. Indeed, the only revenge you might get is complaining in a future brand survey.

Google, Apple and Ikea among most trusted brands, while Qantas is on the nose [Herald Sun]

Lifehacker’s weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


  • I would guess that Mt Sheen is more suffering collateral brand demand from the antics of Charlie Sheen.

    On a more serious note, there are many examples of companies that have spent decades building a strong and trusted brand only to hire new management that proceeds to exploit the trust in return for short term profits, leaving the brand suffering when their turn at the helm ends.

  • I think the eBay/PayPal bit isn’t quite right. My understanding is that eBay attempted to make PayPal a compulsory payment option on all listings; you were still able to choose other payment methods like bank deposit, cash on delivery etc.

    • The complaints were from the vendor end actually. They were forced to offer paypal to consumers, which costs them additional fees. This would be all well and good if paypal actually offered the security you’d think it would. They also have a habit of closing access to funds with no legal basis. Really your just better off using a debit or credit card – they’ll cancel transactions for a broader range of reasons.

  • In terms of being a trusted brand I am stunned by eBay being on this list. Their recent change to fees to try and push casual sellers to gum tree, their endless push on paypal and the slightly high risk in purchasing from their sellers and thus by extension the slightly higher number of dissatisfied shoppers compared to say Amazon. Just makes no sense to me.

    The other brands on the list don’t suprise me because the average end user doesn’t see/ignores all the bad press arround things like Google’s privacy policy or doesn’t notice care about the things that annoy the tech community about vista. Many friends still use vista and see no need to upgrade to win7.

    i have to agree with this article and as other comentors on Giz always say, researching the best solution and using that is defo the way to go. Which still means you will end up using all these brands anyway. I for one still use Google, I try Bing every so often – but it never ends well. 🙂

  • And for me, why is Apple on this list, with its intentional deceiving of customers, questionable marketing statements [4G], ridiculously high prices, poor service, questionable offshore manufacturing practices [China], exploitation of Appstore sellers [30% profit on everything], price manipulation, and obsessive hatred of Google?

    Why would anyone trust a company like that?

  • “Microsoft released Vista. Enough said.”

    Seriously??? Five years down the track and LifeHacker is still flogging this old chestnut???

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!