To say that digital technology has shifted the marketing landscape is a bit of an understatement. Marketing has traditionally been a push initiative, with customers on the receiving end of brand messaging whether it was convenient for them or not (think TV commercials and radio jingles). Digitalisation has turned that model on its head. For brands to be successful, they now have to wait to be found when it is convenient for or if their customers want to find them.
I’ll go into the details of how to do that in a later blog post, because I think there’s a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed first. Over the past few years, there has been a general erosion of trust. This, of course, has been magnified by recent developments in global politics (fake news and alternative facts, anyone?). According to Econsultancy’s Ashley Friedlein, research shows that customers’ are choosing to trust relationships they can control and are seeing through the haze of influencer and celebrity profiles.
Digitalisation has put the customer back in the driving seat
The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer notes that customers’ buying patterns have also shifted. Sixty-four percent of those who took part in a 2018 Earned Brands mobile survey are belief-driven buyers: they choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues. Sixty-seven percent of respondents to the 2019 survey across eight markets,* said that while a brand’s reputation can get them to try a product, they would soon stop buying it unless they come to trust the company. Further complicating the situation is the fact that 74 percent of people surveyed said that use one or more advertising avoidance strategies, ranging from using ad blockers to changing their media habits to paying for streaming services.
(Re)building trust with their customer base, who are concerned about product experience (62 percent), customer experience (55 percent) and brands’ impact on society (69 percent), should then be one of the priorities brands include in their digital strategy.
The way the market is structured puts pressure on brands to stand out, essentially putting them in a position where they have to make bigger and bigger promises. Consumers are paying attention, though, and rewarding brands on the basis of whether they walk the talk. In fact, an incredible 81 percent say that inability to trust a brand to do what is right is a deal breaker for them.
Over 50 percent of consumers want to see brands engage in societal issues that don’t directly impact their business. They see it as a brand’s responsibility even. But brands better be careful about jumping on the bandwagon. Consumers (56 percent) are wise enough to notice trustwashing – that far too many brands are using societal issues as a marketing ploy to sell their products.
Is it worth it for brands to go on a trust-building exercise? The numbers show that brands might not have much choice on the matter, if they want to have customers that buy their product, stay loyal, advocate and defend them. Brands that earn customers’ full trust through product and customer experience as well as societal impact, keep 68 percent of them. More importantly, 76 percent of respondents pay attention to their trusted brands’ communication and advertising, allowing them to bypass the firewall 3 out of 4 people (!) have set.
Brands have to thrive in a world populated by ever more conscious consumers who are not shy about holding them accountable; and that’s not a bad thing. Companies are part of society after all.
* Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the UK and the US
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