Building trust with Deloitte’s ‘four factors of trust’ model

Brand trust is vital to successful campaigns. It’s hard to build, easy to lose, and even harder to regain once lost. Kmart’s recent $1.3M fine won’t be the end of its woes.

Once a brand is commonly known to do things like ignore requests to unsubscribe, it becomes very difficult to get customers to sign up in the first place.

Alex Colvin, CEO of Pendula, explains how marketers can use Deloitte Four Factors of Trust model to create campaigns that resonate, and build a growing trust dividend with the audience.

Trust is a long game that marketers need to play.

There are some fantastic models out there for us marketers to use when it comes to customer trust. I’m fond of the Deloitte Four Factors of Trust model, which highlights Humanity, Capability, Transparency, and Reliability. These can act as the marketer’s compass in the quest for consumer trust. By checking each marketing move against these four core points, marketers can create campaigns that resonate and build a growing trust dividend with the audience.


Being human in marketing isn’t just about recognising faces in a crowd, but understanding the stories behind those faces. The telco industry is a great example here: it’s tough to stand out in a commoditised market like telecoms. So the strategy is to step into their customers’ shoes, suggesting plans that align with what the data says about their needs and when would be a good time to suggest a change in plan. This tailored approach hasn’t just made the customer journey a far less corporatised experience, but it has also boosted conversion rates in the process.


Capability is about showing you’ve got the goods to deliver on your promises. Amazon’s Prime subscription, with its clingy retention tactics when you try to bail, often trips up here. You can sign up any time you like, but you’re going to have to find the hidden button and jump through five hoops if you ever want to leave. On the flip side, brands that keep the exit doors wide open—and welcome you back with open arms—score big on the satisfaction scoreboard. Conversely, the world’s best-loved brands with consistently high NPS and CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) scores are the ones that make it super simple to cancel (and re-join) anytime you like.


Being transparent is primarily about honesty in your communications. It’s all about laying the cards on the table. Optus, for instance, keeps customers in the loop with regular updates on usage and billing. Then there’s the sneakier side of the industry—firms quietly dipping into wallets by tacking on a charge or two without a whisper. Even if it’s a small additional fee, and completely reasonable, it’s pivotal you communicate about it each time. By not sending notifications of monthly invoices as they come out of a customer account, it seems like some companies out there are hoping to slip under the radar. That’s a risky game to play, especially in this economy.


Reliability is about your brand being the rock people can lean on – you’re there when needed and not overstaying your welcome. We’ve all experienced the tsunami of welcome emails, texts, and phone calls that too many companies insist on bombarding us with upon signup. There is a delicate balance required here because although it’s true that customer engagement is highest in the first few days after signing up, communications following the initial “honeymoon” period should be carefully timed and thoughtfully targeted to avoid coming across as too persistent.

It’s not just the frequency of communications that marketers need to monitor. Many businesses use number pooling to send out SMS communications to their customers, meaning that a customer may find they are receiving one-to-one messages from multiple different businesses using the same random mobile number. The same can be said of multiple different email addresses for different parts of the business – sales, marketing, customer support and so on.

Unsolicited messaging from unknown or opaque sources can be disruptive and unpleasant, leaving customers unsure about their validity and affecting their perception of the brand as a whole.

SMS messages and phone conversations should be leveraged strategically, with one unique number per customer. Contact emails should be consolidated as much as possible. This goes some way to establish critical company-customer trust, whilst allowing for two-way conversations so that the customer can jump back into the message thread and reach out when it suits them.

Running your marketing campaigns through these four filters isn’t just a great exercise—it’s a way of quantifying their impact on consumer trust.

The skills you develop can be a fantastic force for good. For so many institutions, trust is paramount. Pendula’s work with the NDIS is a great example: what often happens is that recipients will hoard their allowances for things like physiotherapy, for a variety of reasons, including the fear that they’ll run out of them before the end of the year.

By applying modern marketing principles and technology, we’ve helped the NDIS ease the nerves of recipients, nudging them to make the most of their services instead of letting them lapse. This can have a huge impact on their lives and is proof that marketing based on trust can be a force both for the greater good and the business scoreboard.

Alex Colvin is CEO of Pendula


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