“It started in 2008 when the banking crisis collapsed on us, and since then we’ve started to see just the steady erosion of consumer trust, from phone hacking scandals, food scandals. We don’t trust our governments, we don’t trust our police and even if you start looking further afield into churches, there’s been scandals there,” Flux Trends trend analyst Dion Chang told CNBC Africa.
“Even now sports, matches globally have been fixed. So you’ve got a consumer that’s extremely wary about anything or anyone. So the question we’re trying to ask is how do you sell this consumer a product or a service if they don’t believe anything that you say?”
According to Chang, the overall erosion of trust has been steady and on-going for a long period of time that consumers become cornered with doubt over products, services and institutions.
Because of the high level of mistrust, companies and businesses have been forced to start finding new and unconventional strategies to rebuild consumer trust.
“What they’re calling it is a cognitive monopoly: once you rebuild that trust, your consumer is not going to go to your competitors or they’re not going to look around as much, because with cyber space, you’ve got the opportunity to look all over the place. So you try to narrow that gap as well just to rebuild that rare quality of consumer loyalty, which is completely dissipated,” Chang explained.
Advertisers and brands are tapping into the emotional side of the consumer, using one-on-one interaction through branding and marketing to gain a stronger hold of the consumer.
The horsemeat scandal in the United Kingdom earlier this year took a particular blow to consumer trust in products because it related to food, which was a primary and everyday good.
A number of antitrust campaigns and products are not being used to retaliate against the high levels of mistrust on a daily basis. These include a cell phone application that track the ingredients of a burger and if it contains horse meat.
“You’re getting a very real backlash because of this antitrust and people are wanting to protect themselves, and I think the big debate, especially on social media platforms is between privacy and secrecy,” Chang added.