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How to Build Brand Trust

Not brand new, but on brand. 

Although I am a shameless advocate for the value of live, in-person events, I don’t generally force comparisons with other marketing channels. Especially with broadcast media. That’s because it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. Super Bowl ads reach something like 100 million viewers simultaneously and the best strike with the intensity of a fireworks display. Live events, as a brand marketing channel, work in the opposite way — they enable a many-to-many experience in which individuals can enjoy self-directed engagement with like-minded members of their tribe while seeking insights from specialized experts. It is both personal and communal. 

There’s no comparison. And yet… 

After digging into recent survey results that Freeman conducted with Edelman, I found myself thinking like a corporate CMO and doing some quick calculations.  

Fox reportedly sold 30-second commercials on the 2023 Super Bowl for $7 million each. For those who can afford it, this is a viable way to grab brand awareness, recognition, and consideration. But I wonder how long that media impression lasts. And I wonder if it does anything to inspire consumers to actually trust what the brand is saying. Further, as a corporate CMO, I wonder what might be possible if I put that investment to work in a live event — one designed to appeal to my targeted audience and key influencers. And one that transpires over the course of three day’s interaction — instead of that quick 30 seconds. 

Research shows that attendees rank live events as the most-trusted source of information. According to our Freeman Trust Report 2023, which was commissioned through Edelman DXI, 77 percent of consumers say their trust in a brand increased following an interaction with that brand at a live event. And their trust doesn’t evaporate overnight. Sixty-four percent of consumers retain positive impressions of those brands that last for at least a month or longer.  

Further, attendees indicate that talking to people representing brands leaves them with positive perspectives on the brand’s character and values. Integrity makes a lasting, positive impression. Halo effects from these interactions can lead to long-term brand trust, recognition, and sales. (Freeman CMO Mickey Wilson offers more insights on this research here.) 

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how this might play out. Those of us attending events can all point to examples of corporate brands that use their exhibit space to communicate altruistic values as well as sales messages. They do this because they want to build trust with consumers. There can be little doubt that an investment in live engagements can really move the needle. 

Interestingly, these in-person engagements don’t just build perceptions about participating brands. Our research shows that following an event, audiences across all generations feel good about themselves, too. They feel more knowledgeable, more inspired, and more connected to others than before. It’s a win-win situation. 

This sounds a lot like the Holy Grail of brand marketing — the quest to secure that elusive trust factor. As more CMOs start connecting the dots — actually, connecting the data points — I think we’ll see an upswing in the presence of corporate marketers as exhibitors and sponsors at live events. It’s not a brand-new tactic. But with consumer trust hanging in the balance, research suggests it’s the most on-brand tactic imaginable.

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