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.

Subscribe to Advertising 2.0 by subscribe by email email or subscribe by RSS RSS


    I’m surprised it’s as little as 60%. One report I came across put trust in advertising as little as 17% and 91% for people.
    Our own research with school kids reveals a similar lack of trust in anything brands say. They are also suspicious of them infiltrating blogs and social networking sites. In fact if they get caught the lost of trust is almost irreversible.
    Negative word of mouth and ‘brand terrorism’ is probably something brands should concentrate on more than false claims and spin. It’s much harder to rebuild trust once it’s lost and negative buzz can cost sales.
    Research seems to tell us that the public doesn’t trust marketing and sees ads as lies. Why is that? We are now in what has been called the ‘honest economy’, fuelled by the internet and the ability for ordinary people to reveal the truth. A kid with a £600 laptop can bring down a £6m ad campaign with a few truths – that’s the power of ‘brand terrorism’. Brands need to face up the truth and tell it as it is. It’s our responsibility as marketing and advertising agencies to help clients see the value of telling the truth. As Churchill once said, lies only convince people in the short term, but the truth last forever.
    A number of years ago when I worked on a big cosmetic anti-aging brand our American client was very frustrated that the BACC wouldn’t pass his ad. Arrogantly he said, “If it’s good enough for American TV it’s good enough for you.”
    “It’s not the quality of the ad the BACC are questioning,” replied the suit, “it’s the fact it’s a pack of lies.”


    How ironic given the whole provenance of brands was to create a shorthand for product efficacy that they are now seemingly a recipe for suspicion. But what will consumers do when they can’t trust other consumers any more?

    I was intrigued to read of the mass sign up of 50,000 bloggers by Kontraband, last week, in order tthat they be able to effectively disseminate messages for their brand clients. Won’t the consumers know they are being conned? And won’t they be equally mistrusting thereafter of their digital counterparts?

    I’m looking forward the launch of the ‘honest online’ kitemark – a quality assurance brand for bloggers guaranteeing their authenticity and transparency. Perhaps there is a future for brands after all.

  • James Devon

    You know what my comment is Robin!

  • Robin Grant


    People. Person. People. Person. People. Person. People. Person. People. Person. People. Person. People. Person. People. Person. People. Person. People. Person. People. Person. People. Person. People. Person. People. Person.

  • James Devon

    That’s better!