This article originally appeared on ClickZ.

I recently hosted five global marketing leaders for a panel on brand experience and trust. The expert panelists from Heineken USA, Cyient, AIB, Shell, and Danfoss steer brands ranging from loans to lager.

In previous “Future of Branding” installments, I asked each panelist to describe, in one word, the desired customer experience with their brands. This roundtable was no different. These panelists answered with five key words each to answer “What would be your brand’s ideal consumer experience?”

  • Elevate
  • Thoughtful
  • Effortless
  • Humanize
  • Authentic

No matter the part of speech, the core of each word—the silent root word, if you will—was the same: trust.

Confidence and faith define trust. As marketers, we are responsible for inspiring confidence and faith in our brands. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified this need. In a world that has been turned upside down by a deadly adversity and a parallel pandemic of anxiety, it is as important as ever that we not only earn our customers’ trust but that weas marketers—trust in our brands’ core values. Only then can we create experiences that are intentional, effortless, humanized, and authentic.

Responses that are “on brand” inspire brand trust

A brand is more than its name, or logo, or tagline—or even an advertising campaign. It is certainly more than the purview of the marketing department. While these elements are important contributors, they are not sufficient success factors. I offer to you that a brand can be assessed by the summation of all its touchpoints with all its stakeholders. The fundamental shift in branding is from words and pictures to experiences.

This variety of touchpoints has taken on new meaning during the pandemic. Although they represent different industries, the panelists responded to the global crisis in ways that were founded on their particular and varied missions. In doing so, their brands earned the trust of new followers and maintained the trust of loyal followers.

Heineken USA – Jonnie Cahill, CMO

For Jonnie Cahill (CMO, Heineken USA), responses had to be “on brand.” He proposed,

“You’ve got to be consistent, and you’ve got to give people interactions that make sense to them. Because consumers won’t always say to you, ‘I don’t think that’s on brand.’ No consumer has ever said that. But they know when things are on brand. They know in their heart, in their bones. They see stuff from brands and they say, ‘Why are they doing that?’”

In Heineken’s case, the company moved from experiential moments at live sporting events and music festivals to digital campaigns. And, although couches replaced Coachella, Heineken continued to create experiences that were consistent with their brand. For instance, in short videos on such platforms as YouTube, people were seen enjoying Heineken beverages as they gathered at virtual happy hours and holiday parties.

Cyient – Meenu Bagla, CMO

Meenu Bagla (CMO, Cyient) emphasized the importance of adhering to her engineering company’s values, which she identified as “focusing on problems that matter.” Specifically, Cyient delivered COVID-19 tests to more than 20 million people.

According to Bagla, the pandemic response was two-pronged. One, it was a time to help employees, customers, and the community. And two, it was a time for “brands and for CMOs to reflect. It made us go back to the basics of customer experience, thoughtfulness, and values.”

“We must focus on the thoughtful relationship. Don’t get carried away by the fancy mumbo jumbo of branded and sponsored events and the best-in-class technology. Focus on what matters more for the customer to be understood, to be acknowledged, and to be inspired.”– Bagla realized

AIB – Mark Brennan, Head of Marketing

The theme of trust—specifically earning trust—is not new for Mark Brennan (Head of Marketing, AIB). In 2013, the Irish bank had the distinction of scoring among the lowest on the Edelman Trust Barometer. Since then, the bank has worked hard to improve its trust scores.

The COVID-19 pandemic—a time of extreme financial insecurity—was an opportunity for AIB to continue on this trail to trust. And Brennan knew that AIB had to help its customers through actions, not advertisements:

“We can’t just go out and advertise and tell people that we have changed and we’re new and different. We have to show them, and we have to prove by doing day in, day out.”

So, the bank accelerated 10-years-worth of digital banking trends in one year, by digitizing such everyday banking transactions as depositing money. AIB also created virtual, face-to-face options for customers who were performing such banking milestones as opening a first credit card or receiving the first loan.

Shell Brands International, Shell – Dean Aragon, CEO & Vice Chairman

The theme of earning trust through a variety of avenues did not stop there. As COVID-19 threatened the livelihoods of people throughout the world, Dean Aragon (CEO & Vice Chairman, Shell Brands International, Shell) proclaimed that 2020 was a time to serve, not to sell.

Aragon was disappointed in some other brands:

“I felt like there was a mad scramble—a scramble to rush things and declare that we’ve done this and we’ve done that.” Well, first of all, it’s not a sprint—it’s a marathon. And we’re going to be in this for a long time. Some brands did very well, focusing on story doing, rather than storytelling.”

Shell exemplified this by ensuring the safety of customers, stakeholders, and staff so that Shell could continue to transport essential personnel and goods.

Danfoss – Mette Munk, Head of Group Branding, Digital & Design Communication

As a global leader in the engineering-solutions category, Danfoss continued to pioneer technological advancements that build a more sustainable society. And, while those efforts might have had a “local accent” in each market, they were consistent and authentic. In particular, Mette Munk (Head of Group Branding, Digital & Design Communication, Danfoss) referenced Danfoss’ presence in India. There, her colleagues,

“put the brand action in a regional or a local context. It’s so easy to recognize what it is. But the look and feel might be slightly different from what we see in Scandinavia or Europe. So, consistency is very important to us, but authenticity is key.”

Marketers must be in tune with emotions, particularly trust

As we move into the next stage of pandemic psychology, many emotions lie on the horizon. Chief among these emotions is trust. As marketing leaders, we will be attuned to issues of trust. At Siegel+Gale, we trust in our mission to simplify experiences. Simple is confidence in understanding. Simple is smart.

Margaret Molloy is Global CMO + Head of Business Development