Australia’s most distrusted brands – tech fares poorly

Australia’s most distrusted brands (December 2022) are dominated by tech and communications companies, with Facebook, Google, Optus, Telstra, Amazon, and News Corp leading the top ten.

Australia’s most distrusted brands

Understandably, Optus is there due to the massive data breach. But interestingly, QANTAS has nosedived from the top ten trusted brands falling 31 places to 40th. Perceptions of poor customer service, flight delays, cancellations, and rising prices contribute to the abysmal and, some would say, deserved score.

Of course, Facebook/Meta remained at the top of the distrust list as it has for some time – #DeleteFacebook. Medibank slipped from the top ten trusted to the 14th most distrusted Australian brands for its data breach.

Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine says that brands need to be aware of the dangers that distrust presents in the wake of major scandals.

“What we see with brands that suffer major scandals is that once distrust takes hold, it is very difficult to curtail. We saw it with AMP and the big four banks following the Royal Commission, and we are still seeing it with Harvey Norman. More than two years after the Job Keeper scandal, they are still ranked in the country’s top 10 most distrusted brands.”

On the positive side – The top ten trusted brands

Big retailers led the way, with Apple, the only tech company to make the grade.

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia). Risk Monitor, January 2022 – December 2022. Key commercial brands with 20+ mentions. Base: Australians 14+; n=22,964.

What is this fragile thing called Trust?

In Australia, it is a mix of

  • Do the company’s actions pass the ‘pub test’? Is it right? Is it good for all?
  • Do you frequently read about a company’s issues?
  • Are its leaders sincere and likable?
  • Do their products and services meet acceptable standards?
  • How do they respond to adversity like a media breach, ACCC or ACMA fine?
  • Do you feel comfortable dealing with the company or have reasons to avoid it (past experience)?

Trust is an ‘emotional’ brain state where we have confidence that the company/person we are dealing with will ‘do the right thing’ (and that too depends on your definition) regardless of its impact on them. If a company loses our trust, it is damned hard to get it back.

Trust in technology comes down to respect for your data and privacy.

Western tech companies are generally trusted

According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, 76% of people trust US-based Big Tech. But 73% are worried about their data privacy and can only hope that US big tech is protecting that. In short, we expect Western-based tech companies to behave to western societal norms like safeguarding our data, paying taxes, being fair and equal opportunity employers, and acting ethically. Plus, there are more laws like the European GDPR (General Data Protection Rules), Australia’s Privacy Laws, and US Privacy provisions.

The significant shift is that 47% now distrust social media and how it protects their privacy – a massive leap over previous years.

So, in the western world, it comes down to Amazon, Meta/Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp/Messenger, Alphabet/Google/YouTube, Microsoft/LinkedIn, Apple, Twitter and big American tech like Oracle and SAP. Most of these use your anonymised data to sell advertising rather than sell personally identifiable data outright. But trust is slipping fast, mainly driven by distrust in social media.

Non-western companies are not generally trusted

Westerners are less likely to trust non-Western companies citing foreign government mistrust. Issues driving this include:

  • Russia/Ukraine war/Nukes/atrocities
  • China/Alleged spy balloons, China/Taiwan sovereignty, China/Hong Kong riots (and a complete loss of international tourists), China/Uyghur Muslims, China/South Pacific/Solomons expansion, China/Ownership of Australian assets and infrastructure, China/Australia trade relations.
  • Israel/Palestine conflict.
  • North Korea Nukes and unpredictable leadership.
  • Middle-east conflicts.
  • Interestingly, Brexit and the parade of UK Prime Ministers.

Sorry if we have missed any! And please understand that it is the government, not the individual, that lacks trust.

The graph above serves two purposes. If you look at Australia, 43% distrust foreign (non-western) tech companies but 77% trust western tech companies.

So, Chinese companies which have become global brands like Huawei, ZTE, TikTok, Tencent, Alibaba, WeChat, Weibo, Xiaomi, Baidu, DiDi Global, and more are far less trusted by westerners. But to be fair, these companies work under very different societal mores and political climates to the west. The big mistake is expecting them to behave like western companies.

Privacy is the biggest issue facing humankind.

Privacy is the single most significant issue facing western humanity. We must not let COVID or environmental issues cloud this. We must not drop the ball because unless we act now, the world as we know it will soon be gone. Strong words, but we need stronger actions.

For too long big tech has collected massive amounts of data and monetised it. Then Medibank, Optus and hundreds more have had your personal data stolen – Spy boss says get a second clean phone – Craptus and Mediscare.

The problem is the collection of our data in the first place. We are long overdue for legislation that a) enables a unique transactional digital token (backed by biometrics or MFA) to verify who we are for online transactions (un-hackable) and b) legislate to delete the tonnes of data already collected.

We overshare given the promise of free goods or services

According to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partners 2018 report, 38% of Chinese internet users said they would share personal data such as financial or driving records to receive benefits such as lower prices or personalisation.

That report also shows the US at 25% and Australia at 17% – we are more discerning. But we still overshare on social media and give away too much information to loyalty programs.

Further reading

Australia’s most distrusted brands, Australia’s most distrusted brands