MEC tops the 2019 Gustavson Brand Trust Index

The outdoor retailer returns to the number one spot after being displaced by the Canadian Automobile Association last year.


Retailers have a strong presence on this year’s Gustavson Brand Trust Index, as the three most trusted brands from 2018 jockeyed for the top three spots again this year.

Mountain Equipment Co-Op climbed to the top of this year’s index, after ranking second last year, followed by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) and Costco Wholesale in second and third place. The latter brands came in at number one and three, respectively, last year. MEC previously held the number one spot in 2017.

Rounding out the top ten list were a number of retailers – Home Hardware, Home Depot, Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix and Canadian Tire – as well as Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Band-Aid, Interac and Columbia Sportswear (note that the top ten list, found below, includes ties for the fourth-, sixth-, and tenth-place spots).

Established in 2015, the annual brand trust survey is led by the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business with the goal to “raise awareness on the role trust plays in the minds of consumers when making purchasing decisions.”

The 2019 survey recorded the opinions of more than 7,200 Canadians on 313 national brands across 26 different product categories, between Feb. 5 and 27. Respondents rated 20 brands each, randomly generated through an online questionnaire, creating net scores based on the difference between the number of respondents who trust and distrust individual brands.

In addition to once again finding that membership-based organizations enjoy high-levels of trust, the research suggests consumers have different expectations depending on what the brand sells. They tend to place more value on “relationship trust” with service-based brands and more value on “functional trust” with product-based brands.

Costco and the CAA ranked first on relationship trust, while Amazon, Band-Aid and Costco ranked highest on functional trust. Band-Aid also took the top spot for the most recommended brand, followed Kleenex and Lindt/Lindor.

Overall, the Gustavson School of Business notes that while Canadians’ trust in institutions has been on a decline recently – a finding supported by Proof’s 2019 CanTrust Index – the average brand trust score for all the brands studied was higher in 2019 than last year.

Earlier this month, Canadian Tire, which tied for tenth place on the Gustavson index, was named Leger’s most admired company for 2019, beating out longtime incumbent Google. Meanwhile, an Ipsos annual list of most influential Canadian brands, released in February, placed Google at number one. Canadian Tire did not make that list.

Moreover, the CAA launched a campaign this month to show appreciation for being named Gustavson’s most-trusted brand last year. Erin Roux, brand manager for the CAA in South Central Ontario, told strategy the campaign would continue even if the national auto club should lose its number-one ranking this week.

The top 10 most trusted brands (with 2018 ranking)

1. Mountain Equipment Co-op (2)

2. Canadian Automobile Association (1)

3. Costco Wholesale (3)

4. Home Hardware (22)

4. Home Depot (8)

6. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts (4)

6. Band-Aid (16)

6. Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix (7)

9. Interac (12)

10. Columbia Sportswear (22)

10. Canadian Tire (20)

The most trusted brands by category

Gustavson Most Trusted-1

Gustavson Most Trusted-2