A peak in anti-corporate sentiment by Australian consumers signals a significant threat to established brands, both in Australia and globally, with 70% believing that corporations are money hungry and too focused on profits.

In a report from advertising firm Grey and Sweeney Research entitled ‘The Grey Sweeney Trust Scale Survey’, corporations buoyed by recent economic recovery should be realising that the global financial crisis has altered the way many consumers view business imperatives.

The report found that 54% of Australians surveyed could think of an organisation or brand they no longer trusted, though 59% placed more trust in Australian companies than overseas corporations.

Banks and telecommunications companies have experienced the biggest decline in consumer trust, with around 20% of people pointing to them as organisations they no longer trusted.

Of trusted occupations, nurses not only topped the list, closely followed by pilots, but came well before doctors, judges ahead of lawyers, charity workers ahead of priests and all of them came ahead of politicians and real estate agents.

“The research points to an erosion in the levels of trust consumers place in well-known organisations and household brands. This trust, which is based on hard, demonstrable actions, rather than softer strategies such as community involvement and loyalty programs, is difficult to rebuild once lost,” Grey executive chairman Paul Gardner told a gathering of Australia’s top corporate leaders in Sydney recently.

“If businesses do not adapt to this shift in consumer thinking and understand where it is coming from, then they risk losing ground. It is not enough to disguise a bad offer with freebies or clever marketing – consumers want proof that a company is what it purports to be.

Marc L’Huillier from Sweeney Research indicated that a couple of well-known brands had come out on top in the survey.

“The Salvation Army is the most trusted brand in the country, followed by Google, Australia Post and Medicare. By business sector, airlines are the most trusted, outranking food manufacturers, sporting bodies and supermarket chains. Australians are now looking for certainty and, emotionally, they are looking for a throwback to some of the more traditional values that may have been downplayed in recent times. They trust brands and organisations that understand this dynamic,” said L’Huillier.