Brand owners fail to win trust of consumers

21 May 2010

LONDON: Brand owners are failing to secure the respect and trust of consumers, placing the long-term success of their products at risk.

Alterian, the consultancy, conducted a survey of 1,000 adults in the US and UK and discovered that a "deep rooted cynicism" was observable among its participants.

More specifically, 62% of people in the UK and 54% in the US argued corporations were "only interested" in selling them products, even if the brand concerned was "not the right one for me".

This perception rose to 70% among females and shoppers over the age of 35, and fell to a relative low of 46% for 18-34 year olds.

Only 7% of Britons and 10% of Americans thought businesses “always” acted in the best interest of their customers, although a majority believed firms "sometimes" did so.

An average of 8% of the sample trusted corporate communications, and this level of confidence slid to just 5% where advertising was concerned.

Moreover, 90% of UK-based respondents agreed brand owners did not listen to their customers, measured against 77% for their counterparts in the US.

"The old forms of mass broadcast do not give the 21st century consumer sufficient information to assemble their personal take on a brand," Alterian's study said.

"Individuals are increasingly used to interacting with content, rather than passively receiving messages.
Individuals are not content with being told something; rather, they compare information."

This observation was seemingly confirmed by the fact that 84% of the panel utilised price comparison websites, word of mouth and professional reviews before making purchase decisions.

Within this, 40% turned to friends and family, 28% looked to trusted editorial content on the net or in print, 19% read online consumer reviews, 8% used corporate communications and 5% favoured advertising.

Members of social networks were more positive, with a third of this audience taking the view that "companies are genuinely interested in them" compared with 16% of all contributors.

In all, 58% of people featured in Alterian's poll belonged to sites like Facebook and Twitter, and 70% of this group said these channels were an "appropriate" way for marketers to enter into dialogue with consumers.

A significant minority of 41% even "approved of being contacted" by brands via social media, including two-thirds of netizens who had already signed up to this kind of services.

Nine out of ten social network users stated that “transparency” was a key element of this strategy, while 75% expected that brands would benefit from listening to the views of their client base in this way.

Elsewhere, 82% expressed an interest in joining some form of co-creation drive, such as helping to develop products, reaching a peak of 91% for active social networkers.

A similar number suggested that taking part in this type of initiative would encourage them to discuss the organisation concerned.

Data sourced from Alterian; additional content by Warc staff