Nikki Wicks
Jan 23, 2015

Lack of trust in APAC markets 'fairly shocking': Edelman's David Brain

ASIA-PACIFIC - The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, Hong Kong’s Occupy movement and reports of corruption in the region have contributed to trust levels dropping in several markets across Asia-Pacific, according to Edelman's annual Trust barometer research.


Whilst the region includes four of the world’s most trusting markets, Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer also reveals three “distrusters”, in Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, the least trusting country of all.

In an interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific, David Brain, Edelman’s president and CEO for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, described some of this year’s results as “shocking”.

"The trust levels in Japan are at a record low," he said. "After the earthquake, tsunami and the fallout over Fukushima, something broke in trust terms in Japan. Korea also struggled. Trust in business in Korea is lower in the home country than it is abroad. It’s quite surprising. If you look at the economic success in Korea over the last 20 years, it’s been incredible.”

Overall, the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed an alarming decline of trust across all institutions, reaching the lows of the 2009 recession.

Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman pointed to a number of "unpredictable and unimaginable events" as driving trust levels down.

“The spread of Ebola in West Africa; the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, plus two subsequent air disasters; the arrests of top Chinese Government officials; the foreign exchange rate rigging by six global banks; and numerous data breaches, most recently at Sony Pictures by a sovereign nation, have shaken confidence," Edelman said in a press release.

However, the report, which surveys trust in government, business, media and NGOs, did reveal India, Indonesia, China and Singapore as top trusting nations.

“There is, as ever, no such country as APACMEA (Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa). But if there were, it might be thought to be a little confused,” Brain wrote in his summary of the report.

Businesses in China and India, which are highly trusted at home (77 per cent and 87 per cent, respectively) scored particularly badly abroad (36 and 34 per cent, respectively).

Media in Indonesia (80 per cent), China (77 per cent) and India (76 per cent) are amongst the most trusted in the world, with Singapore ranked sixth (59 per cent). Brain pointed out that the scores for China and Singapore are surprising, as the government takes a strong lead in the media in those markets.

Now in its 15th year, the Trust Barometer for the first time looked at trust and its link to innovation. Edelman found that trust issues are hindering acceptance of technological advancements.

A majority of respondents said that innovation is happening too quickly (51 per cent) and that it is being driven by greed (54 per cent) and business growth imperatives (66 percent). More than half (55 per cent) feel business is not doing enough testing on new developments.

Despite a majority of people believing that innovation is happening too fast, the United Arab Emirates, India and Indonesia, the top three countries on the trust index, are the most accepting of innovation. Conversely, Japan and Korea, which are at the bottom of the trust index, are far less accepting of technological developments.

“The innovation findings were fascinating,” Brain told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “The speed of change has frightened off a lot of people. Innovation is not automatically seen to be a good thing.”

He suggests that this insight can help brands in marketing their product innovations.

“Brands have to explain the benefits of innovation to people and the benefits to the community,” he said. “Otherwise people will assume it’s all about you wanting to make money.”

The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm’s 15th annual trust and credibility survey. The survey sampled 27,000 general population respondents with an oversample of 6,000 informed publics ages 25-64 across 27 markets. You can view the full report, here: 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer

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