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A Survey You Can Trust, By Bruce Maclellan, CEO

Bruce MacLellan

We’re excited to launch the 2017 CanTrust Index with an expanded report on who and what Canadians trust in our country. Our survey of 1,500 Canadian adults was conducted in January of this year, allowing several months of reflection after the Brexit vote in Britain on June 23 and the election victory of President Donald Trump in the United States on November 8th. While events could change, our Canadian study finds no evidence of these populist surges coming to Canada.

Our study finds an enduring level of trust among Canadians, notably lead by new Canadians, women, and residents of Quebec. Even if there are declines in trust in some other nations, you can trust Canada to be different. (We define new Canadians as those in Canada 15 years or less.)

When asked to rank their overall level of trust in the various industry and public sector categories, Canadians report the highest trust levels for hospitals (62%), followed closely by universities and colleges (60%). These high levels of trust in major public services reflect our Canadian values and support for equity, accessibility, and fairness.

The highest private sector industries were retail pharmacies at 48% and food retailers at 45%. The industries that have the lowest trust levels amongst respondents are energy, pipelines and resources (26%), pharmaceutical companies (22%), real estate agents and brokers (21%), social media platforms (20%) and marijuana producers (13%).

Trust is built by great products, services, and operations, not just by messaging. Actions speak louder than words. Through our two years of research, we know that many companies and industries have work to do to improve their trust rating. Trust must be continually earned and many leaders and organizations can improve, for everyone’s benefit. It’s important, because trust in a brand equates to loyalty, and loyalty is essential to a brand’s continued success. Trust can also be important to a public policy agenda, such as regulatory approvals and policy changes.

Responses from Canadians about their level of trust in the marijuana industry – an emerging industry we examined this year – show that this industry has much work to do to build trust. Trust levels around issues related to marijuana manufacturers are the lowest of low, potentially placing governments in a precarious position as legalization proceeds.

While legalization overall enjoys popular support, the devil will be in the details. Ottawa is handing much of marijuana policy implementation over to the provinces, which presents another challenge since provincial premiers rank low in trust among leaders in Canada. A key to building trust will be establishing product quality and safety standards and enforcing sales to only those people 18 years of age and older.

For two years, our CanTrust Index has found higher than average levels of trust among new Canadians. This result is another part of our uniquely Canadian story. In the wake of a rise in protectionism and distrust in immigrants in some countries, our two years of data suggest a culture where newcomers to Canada are driving a hopeful future for companies and governments seeking to build or rebuild consumer trust.

With immigration being predicted to be a key driver of Canada’s population growth for the next 50 years, communicators and marketers should seize the opportunity to position organizations and brands as standing for equality and inclusiveness to give them a leg up on those that passively observe from the sidelines.

When examining trust levels by income levels, we did not find any major divide. The CanTrust Index examined differences in trust between higher and lower household income (HHI). Using $60,000 HHI as the boundary, our market research found no significant differences in trust by these households.

We also asked people about the sources they trust most to get information about products or services. Word of mouth from people they know or sampling a product are both major influences. Our sister company Free For All Marketing is well positioned with experiential marketing services in this regard. Editorial in the news media is also influential. The results demonstrate that multiple platforms and experiences are the best ways to engage consumers with your brand.

The rise of fake news has been in the headlines in the last year, but we are finding an enduring trust level among Canadians in traditional news sources. Editorial content, or stories in media like newspapers, TV, radio or accredited online news sites, remains the third most trusted source of information, with a trust score of 57%. As a whole, Canadians rank the news media second only to not-for-profit organizations as trustworthy, ahead of corporations (large or small) and governments.

It’s been said before, but our recent study underscores a timeless fact: Canada is not simply the 51st state of the United States. Marketers and communicators need to look carefully and dig deeply to be sure they understand the people and values of this nation. We are a country built by wave after wave of immigrants, motivated by opportunity and committed to fairness.

The full report of our 2017 CanTrust Index can be downloaded here.