Optus is the most distrusted brand in Australia in the 12 months to June 2023, replacing Facebook/Meta for the first time since Roy Morgan began measuring trust and distrust in 2018. Telstra, News Corp and Amazon round out the top five most distrusted brands.
This change in ranking follows the widely publicised Optus data breach in September 2022 which resulted in an immediate and sharp increase in distrust for the brand. Despite evidence of this easing since the breach, monthly levels of distrust remain far higher than the prior levels recorded.
According to Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine, brands which suffer major scandals find that once distrust takes hold, it is very difficult to curtail. Recovery from a major event can take a very long time, and while distrust often peaks immediately after such an event, its levels can remain elevated for many months or years afterwards.
Levine noted that while incremental improvement in distrust may be evident on a monthly basis, residual distrust does not just vanish. Roy Morgan’s ongoing research on trust and distrust over many years has shown that while events become less ‘top of mind’ due to new ‘distrust-generating’ events, it would be remiss to believe this means a brand has become trusted again. Impacted brands remain vulnerable, and by assessing Net Trust/Distrust over a 12 month period rather than the latest month snapshot only, the cumulative impact on brands is evident.
“Distrust makes a brand fragile and is a powerful driver in the decisions which consumers make”, Levine said. “Brands need to be aware of the ongoing dangers that distrust presents, with lingering distrust a significant risk.”
The latest ranking change for Optus spells continued bad news for the telecommunications industry. Roy Morgan reported this industry had become the most distrusted industry in the economy in February 2023 and this continues to be the case in the year to June 2023.
The data breach at Medibank also affected the large private health insurer, which is also enduring lingering levels of distrust following the October 2022 incident and is now the 6th most distrusted brand in the economy.
Social Media giant, TikTok, popular among Generation Z, has also seen a large increase in distrust over the past quarter, deteriorating 5 places to become the 8th most distrusted brand in the economy, and replacing Twitter / X as the second most distrusted Social Media brand. However, it should be noted that these results are before Elon Musk rebranded ‘Twitter’ as ‘X’, and any impact this has had on the trust or distrust of this brand remains to be seen.
Outside of the top 10 most distrusted brands, Australia’s national carrier, Qantas, continues to deteriorate. The airline is now the 13th most distrusted brand in the economy (deteriorating 6 distrust rankings from 19th in the year ending March 2023), and for the first time is now the most distrusted airline, surpassing its own budget airline, Jetstar (the 16th most distrusted brand).
The most trusted brands are still dominated by major retailers, with supermarket behemoths Woolworths and Coles continuing to hold the top two positions. Bunnings, ALDI and Kmart round out the top 5 most trusted brands.
Outside of the top 10 most trusted brands, Commonwealth Bank has improved this quarter, rising from the 20th most trusted brand in March 2023, to the 17th most trusted brand in June 2023. The nation’s largest bank is now the second most trusted bank, just behind Bendigo Bank in 16th position, and surpassing ING, down one ranking to 19th position. These results are before Commonwealth Bank announced its record $10.2 billion profit.
Levine added: “Risk assessments and procedures by executives and company directors across all industries need to formally factor-in distrust – indeed distrust should be on the risk register of every board in Australia.”