Matthew Miller
Feb 5, 2013

Trust crisis continues, but differences across Asia can be instructive for brands: Edelman

ASIA-PACIFIC - The Trust Barometer, Edelman's annual study of trust among consumers, shows that while a general leadership crisis continues among corporations and governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have become the most trusted institutions in Asia.


Meanwhile, differences across Asia-Pacific in the factors consumers consider when it comes to  trusting a company may provide smart corporate communicators with ideas for working toward improving the situation. (Please see the related infographic gallery: Report hints at opportunities to build trust across Asia.)

As in previous years, the Trust Barometer is not pleasant news for corporations and governments. Globally, trust in businesses to "do what is right" is at 50 per cent, according to the study, but trust in business leaders to tell the truth during a crisis is just 18 per cent—a 32-point trust gap. The gap between governments and government officials is 28 percentage points (China had the greatest divide). 

Business and government leaders "must change their management approach" to seek input from all their constituencies, while also passing the the test of "radical transparency”, Richard Edelman, president and CEO of the firm, said in a statement.

The report offers some insights on where to start for marketers and other corporate leaders looking to begin that process. 

For example, the report found a difference in trust between the general population and the opinion-leader population. "Amongst opinion leaders, we saw a nice global rebound in trust from last year to this year," Alan VanderMolen, vice-chairman of DJE Holdings and president and CEO of Edelman's global practices, told Campaign Asia-Pacific

This heightened optimism among the "informed populace", compared with the general population, is quite pronounced in Hong Kong and Singapore, with both showing a 13 per cent gap, he said.

Engaging with NGOs is also an increasingly attractive strategy. "On an Asia-wide level, over a five-year period, we’re seeing continued and steady growth in trust in NGOs," VanderMolen said. In fact, NGOs are now the most trusted institutions globally, he added.

VanderMolen attributed the rise of trust in NGOs to better governance within major NGOs and the less combative stance many of them have been adopting—with a focus on partnering with governments and companies to solve long-term issues.

Another big trend in Asia, VanderMolen said, is the emergence of "performance clusters that drive trust". Significant differences exist across the region, and between developed and emerging economies, in the factors that consumers consider the most important when it comes to whether they trust a company. For example, it's much more important in Indonesia to be focused on the long-term wellness of your employees than it is in Japan, he said. 

Edelman defines five clusters: engagement, integrity, products/services, purpose and operations. It can be very instructive for brands to look at the different ranking for these clusters across the region, and work out how best to execute against that information, VanderMolen said. 

The Trust Barometer was produced by Edelman's strategic research arm, Edelman Berland, and consisted of 20-minute online interviews conducted between 16 October and 29 November, 2012. It had 26,000 general-population respondents, as well as an oversample of 5,800 "informed publics" aged 25-64 across 26 countries. 

Campaign Asia

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