How do you create a trustworthy brand? As a content strategist predominantly in the healthcare space, this is something I’ve been exploring for years.
It’s a constantly evolving answer. Or, as UX designers love to say (and clients hate to hear), “it depends.” But more and more often, I’m convinced that trustworthy experiences – and thus trustworthy brands – are beautiful and simple.
High Risk Requires High Trust
Although many brands speak to the importance of building trust, some need it more than others. For example, maybe a fashion icon or movie star breaks their fans’ perceived trust. They maybe lied about something, or were revealed to be racist and homophobic. Fans might feel hurt, but they only need to trust that the icon or actor can entertain them.
However, when a bank breaks trust, say, through a data breach, the stakes are higher. Now the consumer has something to lose – their money. And when it comes to healthcare, the stakes are even higher than that. Now the patient is trusting the brand (the hospital, provider, or insurer) with their life.
So how do you build a trustworthy brand? I suspect it requires three steps, going from easiest to most difficult:
A Trustworthy Brand is Beautiful
Why do we trust some people instinctively? According to Psychology Today, sometimes it’s because their features are more symmetrical. In other words, people are hard-wired to trust what they find attractive. I’ve written about this before: visual design can greatly increase perceived usability.
There’s two reasons for this, and they’re rather circular. First, our brains see things that are usable, and associate them with beauty. So a sleek design, with buttons that attract the eye and clear headers, looks “beautiful.” The circular part is the second reason: people will therefore see something visually stunning, and give it a second chance if it’s not immediately intuitive or usable.
So step one in your quest for trust? Make it beautiful.
A Trustworthy Brand is Simple
In his recent Confab talk, David Dylan Thomas noted that simple language implies a simple process. That means that if you write instructions that are difficult to read, people will assume the steps they describe are difficult as well. Whereas simple, clear instruction will make a complex process seem more simple.
To that end, the easier your language (and design) is to understand, the more people will trust it. Some people call this transparency. Think about politicians and press agents on television. When someone says “well…. I mean…” and then speaks in gibberish, people assume they have something to hide. This is a recognized problem among scientists, who often use precise – and complex – language. However, when someone gives a clear, concise answer, people assume they are telling the truth… even when that answer provides very little information.
That means that step two in building a trustworthy brand is simplicity – in design and in content.
A Trustworthy Brand is Reliable
I was tempted to leave it at that. Build a beautiful, simple brand, and you will win people’s trust. But that will only take you so far. Ideally, you want loyal customers, patients, or consumers, who will stay with you for years to come. And for these people, you need to be reliable.
In other words, having set up a beautiful, simple, trustworthy brand, now you need to earn it. Maintain their trust. Don’t take it for granted. And ensure your internal goals and plans align with your audience’s needs.