Top 3 Ways For Challenger Brands To Win Consumer Trust from Old-Timers

Trust is a buildable human commodity, that can start small but grow to be a big, powerful force, keeping a customer in your orbit for years after your first encounter. Here are the top 3 ways a challenger brand can bypass the lengthy process to win consumer trust from the outset.

Every consumer market is becoming increasingly competitive – consumers hold their purse strings closer in a climate of low consumer confidence, while a bigger range of brands compete for the tightly-held cash. Against this backdrop, trust can be the all important factor that sets you apart from competitors in your space.

Trust is especially vital for retaining customer relationships over time. Trust is a buildable human commodity, that can start small, but grow to be a big, powerful force, keeping a customer in your orbit years after your first encounter.

As such, well-established brands with considerable history behind them, have followings of loyal customers who have stuck with these brands through the years. We recently found, for instance, that despite recalling 300,000 cars due to engine faults, 81.9% of UK consumers still feel BMW is a trustworthy car manufacturer.

Though this sort of negative press goes some way towards explaining the rise of challenger brands, (the 4.4% of BMW owners who now find their car producer to be either quite or very untrustworthy are ripe pickings for innovative newcomers and rivals) these younger companies have to face the hard task of winning over the majority of consumers who remain loyal to the big names (even despite scandals).

In increasingly busy marketplaces, how can young challenger brands across all industries win consumer trust in their infancy, without the luxury of steadily building a trusting relationship over decades? We surveyed 1,000 UK consumers to bring you the answers to this question.

Prioritise Product

Considering all industries together, ‘Good quality products/services’ was ranked as the highest priority in securing trust from consumers (54%), a trend that remains across all demographics.


In other words, trust cannot be fabricated or sold through great marketing. Consumers will only build trusting relationships with brands that deliver on their promise – via a great product or service. Those that fail this first hurdle will face a major uphill battle to then try and regain trust.

Explaining the trust relationship further, it’s human nature to be drawn back to that which is familiar and which holds positive memories for us. Hence why a brand that provides excellent products and services has a pool of trusting consumers who return to them repeatedly.

This is great news for challenger brands; consumers trust brands that offer high quality products and services, and this is something they can certainly supply. The fact they’re new to market doesn’t in any way rule them out of contention for winning consumer trust. Especially if they can build products and services that are of a superior quality to the traditional brands on the market, by innovating in ways that traditional brands struggle with.

It’s the quality of product and service that has driven the success of subscription services, in direct competition with traditional shopping methods, in recent months and years. Harry’s, replacing your razor blades at the pace you need; Bloom & Wild, posting seasonal flowers through your letterbox; HelloFresh, designing recipes and sending the pre-portioned ingredients straight to you.

All of these companies, and the dozens more that are available to subscribe to, succeed by easing the experience of shopping for their products. Providing a unique, hassle-free and memorable experience, accompanied by quality products, they securing a regular customer base who diligently pay their subscription bill every month.

Offering a unique, quality product and service secures trust irrespective of the age of the company, but what if you’re offering a more traditional product, and still want to win consumers over from your older, respected competitors?

2. Hipster vs Heritage

The second most important reason why brands are trusted by UK consumers is that the brand is well-established. Heritage, reputation and reliability all blend together to make a very compelling case for trusting that brand; you know what you’re going to get. We’ve written before on how strong a marketing strategy heritage is, especially for British brands.

Sure, this sounds like bad news for young brands, but it needn’t be. Heritage can be, in some cases, little more than a marketing spin. Challenger brands today are savvy to the fact that the new isn’t opposed to the old, the new incorporates the best parts of the old and drives them forward.

One example of a young brand that’s established heritage in just a handful of years, is Tyrells. Just 16 years old, Tyrells is already a household name, trusted by many and thought by many to be a traditional British product. But it’s all a smart bit of marketing, really. They literally add age (and therefore trustworthiness, for 23.7% of consumers) to their company by putting black and white, old fashioned images on the packaging. It’s a stroke of genius, designed to make you think the company are older than they are, to make consumers associate the brand with British history, and to build heritage.


If a challenger brand wants to win trust amongst older generations in particular (where being well-established scored 25.2% of the vote, versus just 20.7% amongst younger generations), then developing a marketing strategy that ties the brand to traditionalism, old-fashioned values or ‘Britishness’ can be a way to speed the process of developing heritage, and win the trust of these consumers.

Yet, if your challenger brand is aimed at a younger audience, there’s another important strategy.

3. Social Salience

7.4% of UK consumers named a brand they’d been using for less than one year as the brand they trust most, spelling a positive outlook for challenger brands, as a significant minority of UK consumers are quick to offer their trust.

For these consumers, who wholeheartedly trust a brand they’ve been using for less than one year, social issues jump in importance, while being well-established and producing good quality products and services drop in priority compared to the rest of the data.


What draws consumers to a company they’re new to, then, is more significantly made up of social priorities.

For older companies, who’ve had the loyalty of these consumers for over 5 years, social issues drop out of the picture almost entirely, showing that what keeps consumer trust over time is the quality of products and the increasing establishment and reputation of that brand:


A positive policy to protect the environment, support for political / social causes and fair treatment of their employees will assist challenger brands in winning consumer trust in the first instance, giving the necessary opportunities for this trust to then embed over time (through the offering of good quality products and services).

This is especially true given the rising frequency of social scandals amongst traditional, long-lasting brands; Oxfam, Tesco, PepsiCo. When these well-established brands mess up, your challenger brand can be there to offer a social haven for socially-minded consumers.

Our research showed that these socially-minded consumers are mostly younger generations. Those aged 35 and under were more drawn to trust brands for their forward-thinking social stances, with policy to protect the environment jumping up to 5.8% from the average of 4.2%, and support for political / social causes jumping from 2.5% to 4.3%.

If your target audience falls within a younger demographic, then improving and publicising your social policies is a positive way for challenger brands to build trust with this market sector.

Toms, for instance, are one company who built their USP and subsequent success around an ethical approach to business. Arguably aimed at younger generations, due to the fact their shoes are simple and relatively unsupportive, Toms have shot to fame since they were founded in 2006, as the ‘One-for-One’ company; giving one pair of shoes to a person in need for every pair bought.

In conclusion

The strategy a challenger brand takes for building trusting relationships with consumers is most wisely dictated by the age of the audience.

Whilst challenger brands who identify their audience to be young can sing about their newness, innovation and social responsibilities, brands aiming at older generations are wiser to approach branding with the intention of building heritage.

For all challenger brands, though, the overwhelming focus must remain: develop high quality products and services, to give consumers positive experiences and ensure repeat business.

Consumers, while somewhat moved by social issues and the age of brands as well as data security issues that haven’t been mentioned here, are mostly placing their trust in the brands they know will offer them good products, which challenger brands can certainly do.

Trust Issues: The Most and Least Trusted Brands and Industries in the UK

We recently published a detailed report on the most and least trusted brands and industries, based on data gathered from 1000 UK consumers.

Fuelled by the questionable state of trust between UK consumers and the biggest brands across all markets, the report is stuffed full of interesting insights, including a definitive ranking of the most and least trusted industries, the most and least trusted individual brands, and the motivators for both the building and destroying of trust.

The report details the trusting and untrusting relationships between consumers and multinational corporations, tech giants, centuries-old powerhouses and young, vibrant challengers. Read it now to get a detailed analysis of the state of consumer trust across all brand sizes and industries in the UK.


Content Team 

Our in-house marketing team is always scouring the market for the next big thing. This piece has been lovingly crafted by one of our team members. Attest's platform makes gathering consumer data as simple and actionable as possible.

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