Why you can’t trust surveys about the most trusted brands

Each year, with quite a bit of fanfare I might add, Reader’s Digest releases their 40 Most Trusted Brands in America. And each year it’s pretty much the same song and dance. It’s easy to pick apart the findings; after all, with only a very few exceptions, all the brands are national advertisers, some with marketing budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars and a few with budgets that exceed $1 billion.

To some extent, with the Reader’s Digest most trusted brand logo affixed to each listed company, it reminds me of a pay-to-play scheme, or at the very least, a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval initative. Some listings are downright painful like Carnival Cruise Lines; exactly how many infectious onboard diseases does it take to be eliminated from the list? Or Folgers, the most trusted coffee; trusted for what, not having a flavor profile? Or Purina Dog Food, sorry guys, no way I’m feeding that to Zooey the Pug. And here’s one for the record books. In another version of the most trusted brands in America, this one syndicated by The Values Institute, it lists United Airlines as a top trusted airline brand; this in spite of a Vietnamese-American doctor being dragged off an airplane and a misguided CEO who was slow to respond, didn’t apologize at first, spent the rest of the week apologizing, and in the end, lost his promotion as United’s new chairman. 

So much for these mass-surveys about the most trusted brands in America.

I trust Patagonia, IBM, Organic Valley, Fromm Dog Food, Nordstrom’s, Volvo, Subaru, In-N-Out Burger, Seventh Generation, Trader Joe’s, and, of course, Metallica. 

The point is this – these surveys about the most trusted brands in America are not to be trusted. The brands we actually trust the most are the brands closest to home, that represent community, that aren’t necessarily big spenders in the ad pool, and have some sort of emotional connection to us. Oh, and I also trust Marieke Gouda, where the milk from the cows is piped directly to their cheesemaking operation.