LONDON: Some 53% of high-earning consumers in six of the world's biggest markets say they have traded down to cheaper brands in the first half of this year, while 45% have made such a switch because they "lost trust" in a specific product, a new study has found.

The 2009 Midyear Edelman Trust Barometer, produced by Edelman and StrategyOne, was based on a survey of 1,675 people aged between 25 and 64 years old in the US, UK, France, Germany, India, and China.

These participants were all college-educated, frequently consumed business and news media, and had a "household income in the top quartile for their age in their country."

A total of 48% of respondents in the US said they "trust business to do what is right", up from the record low of 36% registered in the previous such poll, undertaken in January this year.

France saw an increase of 11%, to 41%, in the number of people expressing confidence in the private sector, a figure that rose to 60% in China, and 75% in India.
However, only 30% of Americans regarded large multinational corporations as having a "good" or "excellent" reputation, compared with 52% rating these organisations as "fair" or "poor".

By contrast, almost 70% of the sample in India and China gave a positive appraisal to these companies, measured against 29% of Germans, 24% of French, and 13% of British contributors.

Among the actions companies could take to "rebuild trust in the long run" are treating their employees well, mentioned by 94% of the panel, with transparent business practices on 93%.

Maintaining quality products and services was preferred by 93% of consumers, while communicating frequently and honestly also recorded a total of 91%.

A further 89% of people said they would trust companies which invest in research and development, with shareholder value considered as a priority in around two-thirds of cases.

"Trust in business is on the way back, but we're still in the middle of the game," said Richard Edelman, president/ceo of Edelman, who added that "trust is now a tangible in both corporate reputation and product marketing."

Data sourced from Edelman; additional content by WARC staff