The CAA tops list of most-trusted brands

Meanwhile, a host of previously trusted brands have fallen on Gustavson's annual index as the need for authenticity rises.


Of a trio of brands that have consistently topped the University of Victoria’s annual Gustavson Brand Trust Index over the last four years, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) is the only one that has maintained its place at the top.

The automobile association was once again named the number one most-trusted brand in 2021 after tying with Mountain Equipment Company (MEC) last year. But bucking recent norms, Costco and MEC lost ground on the 2021 ranking, coming in at number six and seven, respectively, while Dyson moved into second position and Lego took the third spot.

The top-ten list, included in full below, includes a number of ties between brands.

The Gustavson index, now in its seventh year, measures trust scores along three dimensions: brand ability (based on the quality and competitiveness of its products and the reliability of its supply chain); brand authenticity (its commitment to social responsibility), and brand affinity (how well it protects and treats its customers).

Examining long-term trends, the report notes the growing influence of authenticity – or values-based trust – in brands’ ability to build trust with consumers, with the data showing the correlation between brand trust and authenticity is now at its highest ever. As a result, previously trusted brands including Amazon, Whole Foods, Air Canada and Tesla all dropped in the rankings this year “as consumers felt their values no longer aligned with their own,” according to the research.

Overall, the results illustrate the negative impact failures of authenticity can have on a brand’s overall trust score. One clear example of this is Amazon, whose scores have “substantially declined in the past two years despite consumers becoming more reliant on the company during the pandemic.” Consumers’ perception of ability, affinity and authenticity for Amazon have fallen by 16, 13 and 19 points, respectively, since 2019.  “Amazon may be past its peak in terms of brand trust,” said Saul Klein, dean of the Gustavson School of Business, in a release.

While membership-based organizations have a track record of doing well on the ranking, MEC’s trust score suffered as a result of a “lack of communication and member inclusion in the decision-making process” around its September takeover by private equity firm Kingswood Capital, which ended its fifty-year history as a cooperative. Still, MEC was named the most-trusted retailer in apparel and footwear, and Costco led in trust among grocers. MEC and Costco also ranked second and first, respectively, with respect to consumer perception of their treatment of employees.

Gustavson Brand Trust Index

The ranking is based on a survey of nearly 9,000 Canadians over the age of 18, who randomly rated 20 brands each from a total pool of 391 national brands covering 33 categories between Jan. 13 and Feb. 8, 2021. Consumers are asked to assess their perception of the reliability, consistency, honesty, societal responsibility and integrity of the brands surveyed. The index is based on the net scores obtained when calculating the difference between the proportion of respondents who trust and those who distrust individual brands.

Gustavson Brand Trust 2021 - Categories

Gustavson Brand Trust 2021 - Categories