ISO®: A Trustworthy Brand that Makes Brands Trustworthy

In a news item earlier this 2021, I read that the Office of the Vice President (OVP) of the Philippines secured the ISO 9001:2015 recertification for quality management systems (or QMS). I remember wondering then, what’s the significance of that and why does the OVP of the PH bother with such certification?

From Vice President Leni Robredo led the Office of the Vice President in receiving its ISO 9001: 2015 recertification on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. The awarding came after a successful audit conducted by TÜV Rheinland in December 2020, which looked into the implementation of the office’s quality management system. In her remarks, VP Leni said the recertification affirms the “culture of excellence” that the OVP strives to uphold as it serves the Filipino people, especially amid the COVID-19 crisis.

In the midst of today’s general election campaign season in the Philippines, this article resurfaced which compelled me to take a deeper looking into this brand known as ‘ISO®’.

The original 65 delegates to the 1946 ISO London Conference

ISO®, founded in 1946 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is the brand of the organization known as International Organization of Standardization. According to its website: “Because ‘International Organization for Standardization’ would have different acronyms in different languages (IOS in English, OIN in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation), our founders decided to give it the short form ISO. ISO is derived from the Greek ‘isos’, meaning equal. Whatever the country, whatever the language, we are always ISO.”

Therefore, one could say that deciding on the brand name ‘ISO’ was one of the first standardization acts of the organization.

From the original 65 founding delegates representing 25 countries that convened in the London Conference of 1946, ISO® now has a membership of 165 national standards bodies, representing as many countries globally.

The Importance of Standards

Ray Kroc, Founder and CEO of McDonald’s Corporation, 1902-1984

“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.”

Ray Kroc, Founder and CEO of McDonald Corporation (1967-1973), 1902-1984

Let’s take a look at the importance of standards, especially in the context of branding.

If there’s any brand that is known for establishing and maintaining consistent standards, McDonald’s® holds an iconic status in this field. The brand is legendary for establishing global standards for its quick service restaurant (QSR) franchise and for implementing such standards in a consistent manner every minute of the day, everyday, 365 days a year. This is why the brand has earned the trust of billions of customers throughout the world and is currently the highest valued QSR brand on the planet, estimated by Statista at around US$159billion for 2021. Starbucks, another highly trusted and brilliant brand, is a far second at only US$60billion.

One of the key values that brands hold dear is the value of ‘Trust‘.

“A brand is simply trust.”

Steve Jobs

Consistent with his minimalist approach to many things, Steve Jobs said it perfectly: “A brand is simply trust.” I agree. Without trust, there is simply no brand.

In the private webinars on “The Brand Architecture” that I conduct for companies and organizations, I talk about the Edelman Trust Barometer published in 2019 wherein one key finding is that 81% of consumers say that trust is a deal breaker or deciding factor in their brand buying decision.

Source: Edelman Trust Barometer, 2019

Customers need to trust a brand in order to even try it for the first time. Once the trust has been established at first instance, it doesn’t stop there. Trust needs to be perpetually maintained in order for the customer to keep on coming back for more, forever.

And when the trust is broken, the relationship between the brand and the customer goes south very quickly, oftentimes irreversibly. This is the reason why brilliant brands know that pursuing all things that build customer’s trust will inevitably lead to customer loyalty, thereby leading to growth in the brand’s value and profitability on a sustained basis.

But how can brands establish and maintain trust amongst its customer?

That’s where standards and standardization come in.

We can paraphrase the above quote from Ray Kroc like this: “The quality of a brand is reflected in the standards it sets for itself.”

In other words, quality can only be achieved by establishing standards for the brand, and trust in the brand’s quality can only be achieved if those standards remain predictable all the time, forever.

That’s why one of the promises of Starbucks® as stated within its company policies is “If for any reason you are dissatisfied with your food or beverage item, let us know and we’ll gladly remake it for you.” This brilliant brand knows that the ultimate bearer of the standard is the customer herself or himself and if the standard is not met in the mind of the customer, the brand will gladly take back the product and try again until the standard is met. That’s how Starbucks® builds trust.

But when talking about ‘standards’ in the context of brands in various industries, it’s not always easy to communicate this to customers.

This is where ISO® comes in.

In our previous blog on VMV Hypoallergenics®, we talked about ‘Supporting Evidence‘ or ‘Reason to Believe‘ (or RTB) as an integral part of Brand Strategy. It is this critical component that helps build the trust in the brand amongst its customers.

In the case of ISO®, after establishing itself as the leading internationally recognized brand on standards and standardization, it has become a strong supporting evidence or reason to believe for any brand. In fact, in some countries, an ISO® certification is required before a foreign company is allowed to operate in such countries.

The Standards of ISO®

ISO® is primarily in the business of setting standards. The brand itself does not conduct certifications. Its standards are used as the basis for certifications done by third party companies.

We are a global network of the world’s leading standardizers.

Through our members (the national standards bodies in 165 different countries) we bring together experts from all of the world to develop International Standards.

ISO Website

ISO® today

Through the years, ISO® has produced over 24,000 international standards which covers almost all aspects of technology and manufacturing. But in addition, the ISO® standards also cover areas like Quality Management Systems (ISO 9000 family), Language Codes (ISO 639), Currency Codes (ISO 4217) and many more. Even the internationally accepted way to represent dates (which is YYYY-MM-DD) and times was established by ISO® through ISO 8601.

ISO 9001:2015

By far, one of the most popular standards established by ISO® is ISO 9001:2015.

‘9001’ is the sub-brand and ‘2015’ indicates the year the standard was most recently updated.

Why is it so popular?

According to its website: “ISO 9001 sets out the criteria for a quality management system and is the only standard in the family that can be certified to. It can be used by any organization, large or small, regardless of its field of activity. In fact, there are over one million companies and organizations in over 170 countries certified to ISO 9001.

This standard is based on a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement. Using ISO 9001 helps ensure that customers get consistent, good-quality products and services, which in turn brings many business benefits.

In other words, all the hot buttons in building brand trust are in this standard:

  • strong customer focus
  • the process approach and continual improvement
  • consistent, good quality products and services

Therefore, when a product or service is “ISO 9001:2015 Certified” there is an immediate third-party validation that the brand has met internationally accepted standards with respect to the above key areas of strong customer orientation, continual improvement and consistency in quality.

SEAOIL Philippines receiving its ISO 9001:2000 in 2009

Over a decade ago, in a 2009 press release of SEAOIL Philippines, its Marketing Director Arturo S. Cruz said “The seal of excellence elevated the company to the level of prominence of ISO 9001:2000-certified companies like Fujitsu Philippines, Holcim Phils., Gardenia Bakeries Philippines, Inc., Canon Marketing Philippines, Inc., Jollibee Foods Corp. and Siemens Philippines.” ISO 9001:2000 was an earlier edition of today’s ISO 9001:2015.

This is just one example on how brands value the ISO® stamp of excellence in its pursuit of building the customer’s trust in the brand.


ISO® itself has its own supporting evidence or reason to believe (RTB). Aside from being comprised of 165 national standards bodies globally, according to their website:

“We work closely with two other international standards development organizations, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU). In 2001, ISO, IEC and ITU formed the World Standards Cooperation (WSC) in order to strengthen the standards systems of the three organizations. The WSC also promotes the adoption and implementation of international consensus-based standards worldwide.

In addition, we also have a close relationship with the World Trade Organization(WTO), which particularly appreciates the contribution of International Standards to reducing technical barriers to trade.

ISO also works with United Nations (UN) partners. For example, we liaise with UN specialized agencies that carry out technical harmonization or give technical assistance, including the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

In total, ISO collaborates with over 700 international, regional and national organizations. These organizations take part in the standards development process as well as sharing expertise and best practices.”

Therefore, ISO® itself had to work with other international standards brands (i.e. IEC, ITU, etc.) to establish its own RTB.

This brilliant brand leaves us with two key lessons with respect to the critical component of ‘Supporting Evidence‘ or ‘Reason to Believe‘ which is integral in Brand Strategy:

  1. First, brands can only exist once trust has been established in the minds of its customers.
  2. And second, trust is built on standards which are embraced by brands and pursued relentlessness and consistently, oftentimes validated by other highly trusted brands such as ISO®. Once trust is established, then customers have a strong reason to believe in the brand and what it stands for.

You can indicate your reason for choosing ‘No‘ here.

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