Who You Gonna Trust?

Scott : Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8:45 AM

The latest data from Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey shows 92% of consumers saying they trust word-of-mouth recommendations and less than half trust paid ads in traditional media outlets. The trust in these ads has declined by more than 20% since 2009.

So what we’re seeing is that people, your customers and all of the bodies that stand between you and that Subway sandwich and chips combo at lunch, see your marketing messages out there yet do not trust them. But they do overwhelmingly trust the people that they let into their weird little worlds?  They trust the guy who posted the photo of the fuzzy puppy lying down that was supposed to look like something else and they don’t trust your highly professional corporation or organization?  Yep.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a disciple of Charlene Li (formerly Forrester, now Alimeter Group) and Josh Bernoff from Forrester (who writes ironically enough for Ad Age now) and they say (in their book Groundswell) that social media came about not because of the whiz kids from Harvard and Silicon Valley or a bunch of new tech tools, but because of the phenomenon of simple human-on-human trust.  And really the lack thereof because not only do people distrust advertising. They also distrust business, government and organized religion at levels that we’ve never seen before.

If you’re going to play in social media waters you need to understand this core principle. People just don’t trust you. They don’t believe that your detergent will make their clothes glow with cleanliness. They don’t think you can save them 10 percent on their auto insurance.  They don’t think your movie is a “blockbuster” with “non-stop action” and “a great cast.”  You are lying to them and they want you to stop it.

Instead, be really super real about what you’re doing.  Deliver amazing customer service experiences and get the word-of-mouth going.  Remember the part earlier where 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth (of course, it depends a lot on the particular mouth).

Think about this core issue of trust and your company’s marketing messages. The era of Mad Men advertising-driven BS is as over as smoking on television and has been replaced with a new way to communicate.  A peer-to-peer driven machine that you cannot penetrate without being real and creating an actual dialogue with your customer.  And that means it won’t always be sunny and positive. Accept that and have the confidence to admit when your brand makes a mistake (see Apple for many examples of how to do this and maintain your brand).  Understand that the old rules just don’t apply to the new and extremely non-trusting world in which you now live and communicate.

Start your marketing plan with: They don’t trust us.  Now, why should they? or how do we get them to?  Your company will be better off for it.  Trust me.  🙂