The Voice of Retail

The 2022 Gustavson Brand Trust Index and What It Reveals About the Post-COVID era with Saul Klein, Dean, University of Victoria Business School

Episode Summary

My guest on this episode is Dr. Saul Klein, Dean of the University of Victoria Gustavson business school. Saul takes us through the eighth annual 2022 Gustavson Brand Trust Index in a fascinating interview that merges research and decades of thoughtful analysis. The index reveals that Canadian consumers are more distrusting of dominant technology brands than ever before, and reveals the top performers in the Canadian retail landscape and what powerful attributes drive categories of retail and retail brands to the top of the list.

Episode Notes

Welcome to The Voice of Retail. I'm your host Michael LeBlanc. This podcast is brought to you in conjunction with Retail Council of Canada.

The COVID era has brought with it many changes in consumer behaviour   - and plenty of questions amongst retailers as to what patterns will stick.  


We are all also trying to understand how consumers view brands in the modern, post-COVID (ish) era and how broader political, social trends and economics impact brand respect, regard and recognition.


My guest on this episode to help answer some of these questions is Dr. Saul Klein, Dean of the University of Victoria Gustavson business school.


Saul takes us through the eighth annual 2022 Gustavson Brand Trust Index in a fascinating interview that merges research and decades of thoughtful analysis.  


The index reveals that Canadian consumers are more distrusting of dominant technology brands than ever before, and reveals the top performers in the Canadian retail landscape and what powerful attributes drive categories of retail and retail brands to the top of the list.

You can review the results of the index here.


Thanks for tuning into this special episode of The Voice of Retail.  If you haven’t already, be sure and click subscribe on your favourite podcast platform so new episodes will land automatically twice a week, and check out my other retail industry media properties; the Remarkable Retail podcast, the Conversations with CommerceNext podcast, and the Food Professor podcast.  Last but not least, if you are into BBQ, check out my all new YouTube barbecue show, Last Request Barbeque, with new episodes each and every week!


I’m your host Michael LeBlanc, President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company & Maven Media, and if you’re looking for more content, or want to chat  follow me on LinkedIn, or visit my website!  Have a safe week everyone!


About Saul

Dr. Saul Klein has had a broad-ranging career spanning developing, developed and transition countries. He specializes in the areas of marketing strategy, global business and international marketing.  His research focuses on the global competitiveness of emerging market firms and he has provided consulting assistance to over 50 different organizations in these areas in Canada, the USA, Singapore and South Africa. He has also led strategic planning workshops for a variety of organization in different sectors. Klein serves on the boards of the National Consortium for Indigenous Economic Development (Canada), the Mediterranean Entrepreneurship Development and Innovation (Tunisia) and on the International Advisory Committees of UIBE and Beijing Jiaotong Universities (China).


About Michael

Michael is the Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc and a Senior Advisor to Retail Council of Canada as part of his advisory and consulting practice. He brings 25+ years of brand/retail/marketing & eCommerce leadership experience and has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career. He has delivered keynotes, hosted fire-side discussions with C-level executives and participated on thought leadership panels worldwide.  Michael was recently added to ReThink Retail’s prestigious Top 100 Global Retail Influencers for a second year in  2022.


Michael is also the producer and host of a network of leading podcasts, including Canada’s top retail industry podcast, The Voice of Retail, plus the Remarkable Retail with author Steve Dennis, Global E-Commerce Tech Talks and The Food Professor with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois.  Most recently, Michael launched Conversations with CommerceNext, a podcast focussed on retail eCommerce, digital marketing and retail careers - all available on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music and all major podcast platforms.   Michael is also the producer and host of the “Last Request Barbeque” channel on YouTube where he cooks meals to die for and influencer riches.


Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:05

Welcome to The Voice of Retail. I'm your host, Michael LeBlanc and this podcast is brought to you in conjunction with Retail Council of Canada. 

Michael LeBlanc  00:11

The COVID era has brought with it many changes in consumer behavior - and plenty of questions amongst retailers as to which patterns will stick. 

Michael LeBlanc  00:17

We are all also trying to understand how consumers view brands in the modern post-COVID (ish) era, and how broader political, social trends and economics impact brand respect, regard and recognition. 

Michael LeBlanc  00:29

My guest on this episode to help answer some of these questions is Dr. Saul Klein, Dean of the University of Victoria Gustafson Business School. 

Michael LeBlanc  00:36

Saul takes us through the eighth annual 2022 Gustavson Brand Trust Index in a fascinating interview that merges research and decades of thoughtful analysis. 

Michael LeBlanc  00:47

The index reveals that Canadian consumers are more distrusting of dominant technology brands than ever before and reveals the top performers in the Canadian retail landscape and what powerful attributes drive categories of retail and retail brands to the top of the list.

Saul Klein  01:00

One of the interesting phenomena that, that we see that keeps coming through so of our 33 categories, retail brands are the strongest. So, the most trusted brands in the country tend to be the retailers.

Michael LeBlanc  01:15

So, welcome to The Voice of Retail podcast. How are you doing this morning?

Saul Klein  01:18

I'm great, Michael, it's great to be with you.

Michael LeBlanc  01:21

Well, it is wonderful to, to have you on the mic. You know, you and I have something in common. I don't know if you noticed in our mutual LinkedIn profiles, we are both graduates of Rotman, now Rotman MBA programs,

Saul Klein  01:34

I suspect I was a little bit before you because before it was Rotman.

Michael LeBlanc  01:39

Well, it was before we you know, you I looked, I think you were 82 or 83. And I was 91. So, neither, neither of us were part of a Rotman. I think we were both in that building right beside (inaudible), right, the old management building, -

Saul Klein  01:51

That's right on St. George.

Michael LeBlanc  01:53

We've kind of jumped right in, why don't we take a step back and tell the listeners a little bit about yourself, your field of study practice, your role at U Vic. And for those not familiar, because I've got an international audience. Tell us a little bit about the University of Victoria.

Saul Klein  02:07

Thanks, Michael. Yes. So, like, maybe we just kind of start in the middle and go backwards and forwards, as you pointed out, because at University of Toronto, I did my MBA and PhD, there, PhD in marketing. 

Saul Klein  02:21

Before that, I've moved around a fair bit and continue to after that, as you can probably guess, from my weird accent. I'm originally from Zimbabwe, I left Africa in the mid 70s, did an undergraduate degree in Israel moved to Canada, then to the US to Singapore, to South Africa. And then back to Canada moved to Victoria in 2001. 

Saul Klein  02:46

At U Vic, I'm currently the Dean of the Gustavson School of Business. And we like to think of ourselves as a niche business school, very much focusing on issues around organizational purpose, looking at how organizations build relationships with the with the customers, with their employees, with their investors, in a way that's playing a more positive role in the world. I've been Dean for the last 10 years before that, I ran our Executive Education operations, and was also head of our international business functional area.

Michael LeBlanc  03:22

Now, a couple of questions on the on your background. What, what brought you to Canada? Was it friends, but what is it that of all the places to go, how did you wind up here?

Saul Klein  03:31

Well, I originally came to Toronto to do my MBA and I didn't really know much more about whether I wanted to stay. I was in Toronto for six or seven years, then left Canada, and then came back 20 years later, really at the point where we wanted to settle down, you know Victoria was a great place to be Canada had lots of advantages, as far as career opportunities, as well as a broader fit between what we were looking for, and where we've been so far. And I think I was able to bring my international background to bear pretty strongly in Victoria. 

Michael LeBlanc  04:11

Now did you always want to be an academic? Is that a path that early on was, was of great interest to you? Or did you find yourself an accidental academic? 

Saul Klein  04:19

I think it was one of those serendipitous discoveries. When I when I originally came to doing the  MBA, I had no intention of becoming an academic. Over time, though, as I started getting involved in some of the research, the PhD started looking more interesting. And then I began to see that academia really fit my lifestyle, my choice, my, the choices I've been making in my life. I wouldn't say anything was particularly well planned. It's really more a function of taking advantage of opportunities when they came up.

Michael LeBlanc  04:53

And well let's talk a little bit about University of Victoria. As I said, I got an international audience. So, give us a sense of, of geography it's in. It's in the wonderful province of British Columbia. But how big a school is it to just overall a, a sense of, of the university.

Saul Klein  05:07

So, the university as a whole is about 22 to 23,000 students. So, medium sized university, comprehensive university covers pretty much the full spectrum. The Business School is around seven or 8% of the entire university, we, we serve about 1400, 1500 students a year and have about 60 faculty members. We deliver programs at all levels and (inaudible) undergraduate program, some specialized master's programs in, in global business, as well as in management, and MBA in a variety of different flavors. And we have a relatively small PhD program in, in international management and organization.

Michael LeBlanc  05:53

We're here to talk about the 2022 Gustavson Brand Trust Index, but before we get to that, I can't have someone with your background and expertise on the mic, and not talk about this period that we've just been in this COVID period as it pertains to brand and thinking about brand strategy. I mean, I read research that talked about consumers, you know, 40% of consumers tried a new brand. I mean, that's epic, right? I mean, usually, you know, these brands, fight, kick fight and scratch for a percentage of share, you had tremendous brand switching. Now, some of that brand switching was, you know, I can't find my brand, so, I'm going to try a different one. And suddenly, I'm loyal to someone else, as you kind of cast your mind back and reflect to the COVID era not that we're quite past the COVID era, but the heat of the COVID era the past two years, what are your observations around brand and does brand still matter and brand switching? Did, did you, were you surprised at anything? Give me, give me tell me some of your thoughts on that?

Saul Klein  06:49

Yeah, and, and certainly I agree with you, this has been an incredibly turbulent time, I would say that, that we've seen two almost opposing effects. On the one hand, we've seen that with all of the uncertainty around us. It, consumers have gravitated, and to some extent, to the familiar. So, those tried and tres-, tested brands that they're very familiar with that they've used for a long time, they kind of reverted back to during the pandemic. 

And we saw, particularly as people were going out less, eating at home more, food products, food brands, that kind of resonated with people based on their, the long experience with them were quite popular. 

At the same time, as you pointed out, the pandemic changed everything. It forced us to rethink how we live our lives, how we engage with organizations. And from that perspective, we did start experimenting, in some cases by choice, some cases, by necessity, with a variety of different brands, certainly technology brands became a bigger part of, part of our lives. But also, as you alluded to, with supply chain shortages, often we'd go and find that we couldn't get the brands that we were used to. And we started experimenting with others.

Michael LeBlanc  08:13

I have another podcast with, with Steve Dennis out of the United States, and he's a retail strategist. And we're talking about this tremendous regression to the mean. I mean, our next episode talks about the myth of the great acceleration, you've heard, you know how all the acceleration happened. And eCommerce was shot through a cannon into the future of time, but it feels like as well, there's this counter narrative, this counter force, where people are kind of getting back to the before time almost, you know, a lot of these things didn't, didn't stick. What do you what do you what do you think about that? I mean, right now, we're kind of just observing, but it does feel like you know, this regression to the mean, is a pretty powerful force in our lives, yeah?

Saul Klein  08:53

Yeah, I think that's part of it. But also, that there was something else fundamental going on, and that consumers were looking for a deeper sense of meaning in their lives, but also in their relationships with brands. And they started demonstrating more expectations for brands to play a bigger role. So, in terms of the work that we're doing, we saw that trust was really built by a sense that the brands were playing a more positive role in society that brands were seen as treating people well, and we saw a really strong resurgence in interest in how brands treated their employees. We saw brands that will play a more positive role in society gain more traction. So, I think overall, there was a rising set of expectations, which the interesting question is, is that a trend or is that a cycle? Our view is that we're actually are on the cusp of an evolution in the marketplace where we've moved from a very much product based economy all around product features, reliability, quality to service based economy where on top of those product elements we've layered on the service elements, how does the brand treat us as consumers? How do they communicate with us? 

Saul Klein  10:13

And now we're, as I say, on the cusp to this more purpose driven economy, where it's not enough to have good products to have provided good quality service. But you also need to be seen to be having a more positive impact in society. And we think that is the key shift that might have been happening before the pandemic, but we think the pandemic has certainly accelerated that.

Michael LeBlanc  10:36

It, it feels like you're talking a little bit about the difference between table stakes and differentiators in a brand, right like and, and those to me are always moving points, you know, what was once a differentiator becomes a table stake and, and that it gets just gets a little harder to find those differentiators. So, th-, the whole ESG social responsibility at one point, it feels like was a differentiator. But it sounds like you're thinking it's becoming more table stakes, yeah?

Saul Klein  11:02

I think it's, it's moving in that direction. And I certainly agree with you that it is a function of differentiation. So, as we saw, brands have trouble differentiating themselves in the basis of their core product features, the service elements started to become more differentiators.

Saul Klein  11:19

As the service elements become a bit more commoditized, we're saying that the next major source of differentiation is going to be coming from an organization's values. And unlike product or service attributes, values are very difficult for others to imitate, we can copy your product, we can copy your Service Delivery System, that would be it with some difficulty. But it's very difficult for another organization to carry to copy your values. And those we think are going to be the most sustainable basis of advantage going forward.

Michael LeBlanc  11:52

I guess we're kind of putting that to the test in our latest global crisis, the war in Ukraine, where there's a tremendous amount of attention, at least initially, and I think still the case with brands who are operating in Russia, right, to get out of Russia. Do you think you think that's a, a, a good example, good case study of how consumers are going to react, you know, globally (crossover talk), situation?

Saul Klein  12:15

Yeah, very much it is. And again, it's part of that broader sense of expectation. And we saw almost a, you know, a rush for the exit of brands operating in Russia. And it became toxic to be seen as doing business with, with Russia, at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine was having such a horrific and devastating consequence. 

Saul Klein  12:38

And people are starting to ask those questions or to really expect brands to be asking those questions is what are you doing to make the world a better place? Are you aligning yourself with issues or practices that don't align with my values as a consumer? If you are, I expect you to change or I will change and stop doing business with you. And I think we're seeing brands respond to that in a, in a very powerful way. At this point, I think there's more than 500 brands that have pulled out of Russia. Most of the major consumer brands have done so.

Michael LeBlanc  13:16

I guess you're going to be in the, the exception is going to be more and more noticeable. There are a handful of consumer brands and retail brands that are still operating in Russia. I think that it, it might come to the day where that that's a big decision, right? I mean, huh, -

Michael LeBlanc  13:32

Aldo has that problem, yeah.

Saul Klein  13:32

A, a, absolutely and I think some of what's happened is a function of the ownership structure in this. (Crossover talk), we've seen some franchises have, -

Saul Klein  13:33

(Crossover talk), difficulties getting out of Russia because of their relationship with their franchisee, and the franchisor might have said yes, yeah, we want to pull out. The local franchisee says no way we can't allow you to pull out.

Michael LeBlanc  13:53

Yeah, I'd imagine there's some kind of, you know, rule in some kind of long franchisee contract that says, you know, under certain circumstances like brand harm, you know, I revoke your right to use my brand. But anyway, we don't want to go down that rabbit hole. It's probably a separate podcast. 

Michael LeBlanc  14:11

Let's get let's get back to the 2022 Gustavson Brand Index. Let's, first of all, talk a bit about the tradecraft. How is it done? Who do you talk to and, and what's the process behind the numbers? Then we'll get into some of the insights.

Saul Klein  14:23

Yeah, great. So, this is something we've been doing. This is our eighth year in a row. Each year, we conduct a major consumers survey. We've commissioned a market research has to collect the data. We survey a broad cross section of Canadians about their, their views with respect to an increasing number of brands. 

Saul Klein  14:43

So, for example, this last go-a-round we collected data earlier this year, on just over 400 national brands, surveyed around 8000 Canadians, to try get an understanding of not only which brands they trust, but why and what are the drivers of trust?

Saul Klein  15:02

So, for each brand, we have a battery of questions that get at those determinants of trust. And then we measure them using a kind of a net promoter score type of methodology, where index is based on the difference between the proportion of consumers who trust a brand, versus the consumers, the proportion of distrust a brand and this is all taken, all of these measures are taken after we've done a pre-screen for familiarity. So, there's no point in asking people to talk about a brand if they're not familiar with it. Once we've assessed familiarity, then we be taken through this battery of questions.

Michael LeBlanc  15:44

How do you account for strong regional brands? So, I had the great opportunity on The Food Professor podcast to interview the, the President of St-Hubert chicken, which is just a cultural icon has tremendous, you know, it has tremendous regard and recognition scores. And, and you know, if you talk to the average Quebecer, that would raise quite high. And, and there's examples of those across the country. How do you how do you kind of net that, as you said, the glo-, the, the, the Canadian brand, the national brands versus the really strong regional brands? How do you, how do you sort through that?

Saul Klein  16:15

Yeah, so our core study only looks at the national brands, those we have 402 national brands, brands that have to be sold in, in several parts of the country. 

Michael LeBlanc  16:24


Saul Klein  16:25

In parallel, we also do a sub-sample. And we don't report it the same way. It's not part of the, the broader index. But we do measure regional brands, particularly in BC, but also in Quebec. 

Saul Klein  16:39

And there we found a really interesting phenomenon, where regional brands tend to be trusted more than national brands and Canadian brands tend to be trusted more than international brands, which is really interesting, because when we started getting into this work, we had to, I borrowed some of the methodology from a research company in the UK, that was doing brand trust work on a proprietary basis. 

Saul Klein  17:07

They were finding exactly the opposite in the UK market, global brands were trusted most, then national brands, and then regional brands, the Canadian experiences, they're entirely the opposite.

Michael LeBlanc  17:19

You know, the, the temptation and what, let's get into the results, but the temptation for me as the, the person doing the interview is always to ask this question, It must drive you crazy. Why? Because you don't really necessarily get insights from the people as to why but, you know, I'm still going to ask you why do you think that might be the case? Is it is it, a small country phenomenon is, you know, it's not like we're a shortage here in Canada of global brands, any, any sense of why that might be the case? 

Saul Klein  17:48

Well, I, I, I think it's the real strength of the brands. So, you, you identified some Quebec brands, where there's a very strong affinity, they've customized the offerings very directly, and perhaps it has something to do with the, the regional disparities within Canada that might be larger than we would see, for example, in the UK. 

Saul Klein  18:09

And, again, the brands that do really well, the strong regional brands are very powerful brands in their own right. And they are, they're taking advantage of being local, and building those local relationships to an extent that it's often very difficult for even a national brand, let alone an international brand, to customize their offerings to the same extent.

Michael LeBlanc  18:32

You know, St-Hubert is such an interesting example. Because while their stores are located almost exclusively in Quebec, they have a grocery product line that's quite extensive. So, you can actually find their St-Hubert pies or, or treats in groceries across the country. And that's one of the things I, I've probed on when I was talking to the President is that it feels like pretty amazing to me, because you feel like you would have to have locations close by in Vancouver to sell St-Hubert chicken, but their brand seems to transcend geography, right? It's, it's a pretty interesting example. Anyway, I'm, I'm diving into one example. But take us through some of the results. I mean, I, I see charts about climbers and sliders and, and overall results and top performers. So, take me through some of the highlights.

Saul Klein  19:15

Yeah, so one of the things we do is we look at overall most trusted brands in the country. And then we look at most trusted brands in one of 30 I think 33 different categories. We try to understand what's driving that. Overall, what we've seen again in 2022, and this is following a pattern that's been established for a number of years now is that the top rated topmost trusted brand in Canada is the Canadian Automobile Association. It's kind of interesting that they have we tend not to think of them as a consumer brand as such, but they're very powerful in terms of building relationships with their customers. And what's striking about CAA is they do extremely well in all of our broad, across all of our attributes. So, we measure trust as a whole. And then we measure trust with respect to the product features, the service dimension, and the value structure. And CAA does extremely well across all of them.

Michael LeBlanc  20:16

Now is that because is, is that because they're, they're showing up when you're in trouble? Like, when I call CAA, I am, I'm locked out of the car or the battery's dead and, and you know, all props to CAA, there, there's always someone who's going to show up, is it, is it, those two things?

Saul Klein  20:31

It could be but interesting enough, when we talk to CAA, and there's a, there's a bit of art as well as craft here in which category they belong to, they actually see themselves as an insurance brand. So, we compare CAA relative to other insurance companies, and there too, they do extremely well. So, there is something about the, the way they communicate the authenticity around them. And the fact that you know, when you have a problem, they come out to help you.

Michael LeBlanc  21:03

Okay, what else? What else did you see? I see, I see some retail brands and the most trusted brands I see, I see Costco, Home Hardware, Mountain Equipment Company, Shoppers Drug Mart, so President's Choice, obviously.

Saul Klein  21:15

Yeah. So, wha-, one of the interesting phenomena that, that we see that keeps coming through. So, I've our 33 categories, retail brands are the strongest. So, the most trusted brands in the country tend to be the retailers, whether it's whether it's food, whether it's drugstores, whether it's home improvement. So, you know, Costco has been a perennial top three brand, does extremely well on the functional product attributes value for money, good quality, great customer service, Home Hardware, very similar kind of kind of profile.

Saul Klein  21:54

So, I think what's happened is, we've seen a shakeout in the retail space. And, you know, people often talk about the Amazon effect, what it has done is it's forced the retailers to up their game. And they have had to provide a very strong fundamental reason for consumers to come into the stores. And if they can't do that, they won't survive. And we've seen, you know the failure of of, many retail brands. So, what we're seeing here are the survivors who are actually doing a really strong job. 

Michael LeBlanc  22:25

Interesting, you know, one, one of the, -

Saul Klein  22:27

The other thing that, - 

Michael LeBlanc  22:27

Go ahead.

Saul Klein  22:27

relates to and one of the interesting findings we're finding this year, coming back to Amazon, for example, is while consumers are using certain brands, more and more, they're not necessarily trusting it. And that's the kind of the, the choice issue that we're going to be looking at very closely coming out of the pandemic. So, we've seen, obviously, this massive explosion in the use of Amazon. But our trust rankings of Amazon have continued to go down. And so again, we kind of think that once people start feeling more comfortable, completely returning to a retail environment, that could be a bit of a problem for Amazon. 

Saul Klein  23:13

We're seeing similar phenomenon in terms of the other the big tech brands, where there's a sense that they're becoming too big, too powerful. And you know, as consumers, we worried about whether we're giving up too much of our privacy, whether they know too much about us, and there's concerns about antitrust and those issues coming in. So, it's really interesting to see this paradox that some of the brands that we're using most, we're actually trusting least,

Michael LeBlanc  23:43

You know, I, I look at the other, other part of the results and, and for the listeners, at the end of the podcast, I'll, I'll ask you to point them to where they can find the results, which are out today. I see that like the, the score change is interesting to me. So I, you know, some score changes are fairly modest, up and down a couple of points, but I look at something like Band-Aid as a brand. And, you know, its ranking last year was 19. Now, it's number two, what accounts for that is that a COVID bump? What wou-, what would account for that kind of magnitude of change in a brand? 

Saul Klein  24:15

Yeah, so I, I, I think it is partly COVID. It is that reassurance. So, in a time of incredible uncertainty, Band-Aid is, you know, this old, very reliable brand that doesn't let you down, they, they perform extremely well. So, I think those are, are things that happen. Typically, we, we don't often see brands jumping up rapidly. We often see brands falling rapidly when there's a problem, and then we see slower recoveries. But we do have a few examples of the opposite.

Michael LeBlanc  24:52

Bose, Bose is one of those examples, which is interesting to me in as much as just the you know the, the back story to Bose is they closed all their retail stores, which didn't close their distribution. But they went from, from 30 up to six. And but they closed all their stores. Maybe it was just because we were focused on the home. What do you think?  Again that, (crossover talk), -

Saul Klein  25:12

I think so, so, again, if you think about our shopping behavior during the pandemic, not having retail stores wasn't a big deal, because we were buying online. So, I think a company like Bose could actually take advantage of that. And again, superb quality of their products and the customer service associated with them, is what gave them that big boost. And you could argue that Dyson would be somewhat similar, even though it's been in the top 10 for, for a few years now. It dropped a little bit this past year, but very small in terms of the actual score change, a very strong product-based brand.

Michael LeBlanc  25:49

Yeah. And, you know, I was thinking back to what you said earlier in our conversation about brands that, that were part of your lives that you've trusted, I see Hudson's Bay, on your climber’s chart up 6%. So, it made the climbers chart I guess that's, is, is that, you know, they're executing well, but is that part and parcel of, of familiarity of a brand and their format, again, during this somewhat unusual time, but just in the in a rough and tumble world of, of retail competition?

Saul Klein  26:15

Yeah. And again, I, I think it is that, that phenomenon of, of comfort with an interesting brand that, that did quite well and got to the top of their category.

Michael LeBlanc  26:26

Hmm. Interesting. All right. So last question for your world's words of advice. You've shared tremendous insights. And it's great. It's great background, what's your advice to retailers as they, as they think about their brands? I mean, as they think about, you know, what they should take away from their future, what they should think about? Well, that might have changed, because it was a weird time in our lives versus what structurally is changing. Any advice to the listeners out there?

Saul Klein  27:05

Yeah, I think it's about understanding that consumers have a very broad range of interest, that it's not enough to just provide reliable good quality products, or even to provide good service. Increasingly, consumers expect the brands that they that they're buying from, to play a more positive role in society, and they're looking for that they're looking for signals as to how well are you treating employees, certainly, that was a big issue during COVID, where frontline employees were seen as essential workers, they expect you to be paying a positive role responding to societal issues in ways that align with their values. Now, that's often a challenge, because people have different values. And organizations are often kind of pulled in different directions. But it does mean making choices and being authentic in what you're doing. The other thing that we've seen is it's not just lip service. So, green washing doesn't pay off, evidence will come out in the long run. But consumers do expect you to be making a difference.

Michael LeBlanc  28:12

Well, Saul it's been a great, great discussion. Last question for you. Where can the folks go to find the results and see the results and learn more, and maybe even get in touch with you,

Saul Klein  28:22

For sure. So, the easiest way is to just go to our website, just Google; Gustavson Brand Trust Index and you'll take us there. What you'll find (inaudible), all of the brands that we have been talking about as well as lots more. For the brand owners out there please feel free to contact us. We're more than happy to provide additional insights, addi-, additional information this is non-commercial activity, we see that we all benefit when trust increases. And if there's ways, we can help different brands boost their own trust scores, we are more than happy to provide them. So, we will develop customized decks for you, do a deeper dive into your own brand performance, all in the spirit of trying to help all brands do a better job.

Michael LeBlanc  29:09

Wow, that's very generous. Well, Dean Klein is I should call you Saul as my alumni. partner. Thanks so much for joining me on The Voice of Retail podcast, great discussion, great dive into some great research which is really interesting. And so happy that we had this opportunity to connect and let's do it again next year, the next survey and see how things move along, -

Saul Klein  29:27

Happy to do that. Thank you, Michael. 

Michael LeBlanc  29:29

Thanks for tuning into this special episode of The Voice of Retail. If you haven't already, be sure to click and subscribe on your favorite podcast platforms so new episodes will land automatically twice a week. 

And check out my other retail industry media properties, the Remarkable Retail podcast, Conversations with CommerceNext podcast, and The Food Professor podcast with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois. Last but not least, check out my all-new YouTube barbecue show Last Request Barbecue with new episodes each and every week. 

I'm your host Michael LeBlanc, President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company and Maven Media. And if you're looking for more content or want to chat, follow me on LinkedIn or visit my website at 

Have a safe week everyone.


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