Consumers trust others’ opinions more than ads

Alex Burmaster, European internet analyst at Nielsen Online:

Six out of every ten of your potential consumers will trust the recommendation of someone they don't know when it comes to deciding which of your products or services to buy. They're more likely to trust these than your brand website, ads in magazines, on TV or radio or before movies, more than emails or texts they receive from you, sponsorships you engage in, or search engine ads or banner ads that you place. Brand association maps, which plot language, attributes and issues around a topic, show that, for advertising, attributes like 'false', 'deceptive' and 'misleading' are highly associated.

What people are saying about you can have more effect than all of your marketing activities, so it's vital to understand what's being said and the sentiment behind it – the 'buzz'. Our studies in the US have shown that monitoring buzz can be like a digital version of a crystal ball when it comes to sales. For example, a well-known pet-food manufacturer in the US was consistently cited in the same percentage of blogs until early March this year when suddenly its share of buzz increased 20-fold in just two weeks due to a contaminant scare.

This increase in negative buzz preceded by one week a drop in sales, and the buzz spike coincided with a 50% drop in sales. So while it's difficult to control what people are saying about you, by monitoring the buzz it can give you a fighting chance, a window, in which to develop appropriate counter-strategies.

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