Global tech and media brands are at high risk of losing followers: report

The 2022 Gustavson Brand Trust Index looked at data from 9,189 consumers about 402 national brands.

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The 2022 Gustavson Brand Trust Index looked at data from 9,189 consumers about 402 national brands

The fear of being #cancelled is not just a celebrity or influencer thing anymore—it’s very much a branding concern as well. 

In fact, Canadians are willing to vote with their wallets when it comes to brand values, according to the 2022 Gustavson Brand Trust Index (GBTI). The eighth study by UVic’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business looked at data from 9,189 consumers about 402 national brands to conclude that trust in technology and media is the lowest it’s ever been.  

The study measured three components of brand trust: ability, which is the value for money it provides; affinity, which is how well the brand treats its customers; and authenticity, the degree of alignment between brand and customer values.  

Out of the top 10 most trusted brands in Canada, Canadian Automobile Association ranked first in both 2021 and 2022, and was considered to be “top-performing” among all three generations. The nonprofit scored very high for brand affinity, considering factors like customer service, responding to feedback and being honest in its communications. Others among those that Canadians trust most with their data are RBC, Mastercard and CIBC.  

From 2017 to 2020, CBC was regarded as the most trusted media brand in Canada, although the public broadcaster’s scores started to decline in 2019. Despite receiving its lowest score ever this year, CBC still came out as the second most trusted in media, as consumers seemed to believe in the outlet’s brand authenticity. The demographic that felt the most strongly against CBC this year turned out to be those aged 18-35, who scored the brand 14 points lower than last year. 

Consumer trust in media GBTI 2022GBTI 2022. Consumer trust in media between 2016-2022

“What’s really falling under the floor is social media,” says David Dunne, who teaches marketing and innovation at the Gustavson School of Business. “Facebook is straight to the very bottom of our index—it’s the least trusted brand in Canada—and Twitter, Instagram, TikTok are there too.”  

According to the GBTI, between 2017 and 2022, Facebook lost 42 points, Amazon 33 points, Google 31 points, Apple 17 points and Microsoft 10 points. All of them were seen as heroes just a decade ago, but Dunne cites fake news and privacy concerns as big reasons behind that erosion of trust. Still, those companies’ market power and reach go far enough that government regulations (like anti-trust laws) may be the only way to reign them back in. 

In 2016, global tech pioneer Tesla ranked #1 among auto manufacturers and #11 in overall brand trust. However, the automotive and clean energy company lost 26 points over seven years, with 10 points this year alone based on low reliability, low quality and a failure to follow through with promises. Consistently high in innovation, it’s also consistently low on community support.  

READ MORE: Opinion: As McDonald’s retreat from Russia shows, branding goes well beyond the burger 

“The stuff that the owner gets up to or says can have real repercussions for the brand,” maintains Dunne. “Obviously, we’d have to see how the acquisition of Twitter plays out and what Elon Musk decides to do, but given the way that he’s been talking, I don’t see, for Canadian consumers at least, that it’s going to improve.”  

Innovation only goes so far because over time people gravitate towards other brands. “Tesla was the biggest ‘first out of the gate’ with electric cars, but electric vehicles are now becoming more and more common,” Dunne points out. “Most competitors have at least a hybrid and probably an EV model as well. In a competitive environment, people have choices and they’ll go with the brand they trust the best.” 

Canadians also take the climate crisis seriously, with greenwashing and packaged food brands among those at high risk of losing followers. It’s reassuring to know that powerful brands are being held accountable by consumers today—that’s the kind of cancel culture we want to see.