LONDON: Trusted brands are ones that behave like people, showing empathy and being open, real and even flawed, a new study has said.

Lippincott, the brand strategist, reached this conclusion based on research into 1,000 global brands and the measurement of three character traits of authenticity, empathy and vitality. From this analysis it developed a score it termed the Human Era Index and reported that, on a scale from one to ten, the average British brand scored 4.2, while in the US the average score was 6.0.

"The Human Era is about a fundamental societal shift in relationships," explained Simon Glynn, Lippincott's EMEA director. "As people lose confidence in institutions, and put greater trust even in total strangers, companies need to rethink how they connect with people," he continued.

In essence, that meant "acting in a human way that many companies find quite uncomfortable", he said.

The six characteristics exhibited by the most trusted brands included customer empathy, behaving like real people, being open and real to the point of being flawed, not being boring, caring about the little things and empowering individuals "to be the brand".

Airlines scored highly with Emirates rating a perfect 10, closely followed by Virgin Atlantic on 9.8.

In retail, John Lewis was the most trusted British brand, with a score of 8.8, while its food retailing arm Waitrose led the groceries category with a score of 6.6.

Yo-Sushi, the self-serve Japanese restaurant, scored 8.4 to lead the restaurant category, and Lippincott noted that "a low-touch offering can also be a human one if the brand makes an effort to strike a relationship with its customers".

Other category leaders included Bose (7.8) in consumer electronics, Nationwide (6.7) in financial services and Disney (6.1) in media and entertainment.

"Many brands talk about the importance of customers, but few actually deliver on their promise and make an authentic connection," noted Glynn.

The best succeeded by going beyond their marketing and social media strategy. "It comes from their culture, how they make decisions, how their employees think and act, and often the little things that often don't even cost that much," said Glynn.

Data sourced from Lippincott; additional content by Warc staff