Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brand Transparency and Trust

I am a chronic product-reviewer before shopping. Even if it’s just picking up another toothbrush, I run to the internet before running to the store. Usually there is a review somewhere online, and the allure of getting the “inside scoop” on my prospective purchase is enough to keep me googling “Crest vs. Colgate”

I am not alone. According to a new study from Alterian (via eMarketer), 51% of consumers always compare products and services before making a purchase. The survey also shows that only 1% of respondents (made up of Internet users from the United States and United Kingdom) never compare products and services before making a purchase.

That’s a whole lot of people typing into a search engine your product or service. What’s going to pop up? Sponsored ads? A corporate website? Or perhaps a negative review on Yelp, or a glowing fan base on Facebook.  The wealth of outlets now available for consumers to voice their opinion is large, and that has given power back to the consumer to scope out the “truth” about a brand.

Social networking and DIY media-exchange of information outside of the brand space will increase as consumers become more comfortable with their power to get the true story on products from total strangers. Rather than simply trusting experts or putting faith in brands, consumers expect to do their own research and comparison shopping using many sources. In fact, just behind friends and family, people trust web reviews of a company or product the most, according to the same study from Alterian.

In the survey, respondents were asked who they were most likely to trust for advice when researching a product or service. In answer to that question, only 13% said they trusted what a company says about itself or advertising or promotional features. The results of the survey are as follows:

  • 40% trust friends and family
  • 28% trust professional reviews on web sites, newspapers or magazines
  • 19% trust reviews from people “like you” on web sites
  • 8% trust what the company says about itself
  • 5% trust advertising or promotional features

With the boom of social media and online consumer review sites, it all comes down to one thing: there is no longer anywhere for shady business to hide. If a brand stretches the truth, handles negative feedback poorly, or doesn’t deliver on a promise, consumers have a very public platform to call it out. Now-a-days, playing fair and honest is the only way to stay in this highly visible and un-censored “game.”
After all the events of 2010-banks collapsing, economies faltering, bailout packages-people need something to believe in again. This is why transparency and trust are so important for brands in 2011. People always love something to believe in. Create expectations for your brand in consumers’ minds that they can trust and rely on. If you are able to do that, you will find a “Tweeting,” “Facebooking” and “Yelping” bunch of brand loyalists who can become your most powerful source of word-of-mouth marketing, brand advocacy and brand guardianship.

Ashley Haugen is a Gustavus Adolphus College alum. She has had Marketing experience working with such organizations as the LOFT Literary Center, and the Gustavus Marketing Department. She is currently a marketing intern at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in St. Paul. 

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