ROTTERDAM: Online comments about brands are far more trusted by young consumers than advertising or official social media pages, a multimarket study has found.

InSites Consulting polled 4,065 respondents aged 15–25 years old in 16 countries, including Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Russia, the UK and US.

Online pages concerning brands, for example on forums or blogs, were seen as the most credible information source in five markets. Some 28% of the panel in the Netherlands prioritised this content, as did 24% in the UK, the best scores on this metric.

Views aired by consumers actually using a product claimed top spot in another eight nations, reaching 33% in Italy and 30% in Brazil, falling only slightly to 29% in Spain and 27% for Poland and Romania.

Material from the brand itself led in two countries, albeit those of particular importance to marketers, in the form of China on 26% and India, where opinion was rather more stratified overall, on 15%.

Friends assumed a central role in Sweden, registering 22%, the sole country where they headed the rankings.

When discussing advertising, however, interviewees returned an average rating of around 4%. Figures here were strongest among participants in India, on 10%, and China, on 6%.

Totals fell closer to the 3% levels for brand social media pages, rising to 7% in Brazil, and relative highs of 6% in Poland and 5% in India.

"Many companies keep using their pages too commercially and hope that that's the way to get youngsters to think the brand is so cool that they will 'Like' anything which is posted on the page," said Joeri Van den Bergh, of InSites Consulting.

"But that's not how it's done. It's all about creating compelling content together; stuff that is worth sharing in conversations with your friends."

The most important brand characteristics for the sample, the analysis added, were being "honest" and "reliable", as well as "authentic" and "real".

Some 27% of contributors in the UK, for example, saw "authenticity" as a vital trait of any product they were likely to purchase, InSites Consulting discovered.

"Being loyal to yourself is their definition of authenticity. They expect that same honesty from the brands they think are cool and that they buy," said van den Bergh.

Data sourced from InSites Consulting; additional content by Warc staff