NEW YORK: Traditional forms of communications like word of mouth, direct mail and newspapers enjoy higher levels of trust among US consumers than social media and other online services.

ICOM, part of Epsilon Targeting, argued in a study that social networks, internet forums, blogs and similar tools have added considerable complexity to the world occupied by more established channels.

Based on a survey of 2,569 adults, it reported 57% of people regarded friends and family as a reliable source of information, falling to 26% for newspapers and 22% for corporate websites.

Television posted a score of 20%, with brochures and flyers on 18%, radio on 16%, email on 12%, third-party internet sites on 11% and mobile phones on 9%.

Web 2.0 portals generated relatively modest figures, coming in at 8% for blogs, forums and Facebook, and just 7% for YouTube and Twitter.

When asked to name preferred providers of news and updates relating to personal care, food and cleaning products, 36% of the panel chose direct mail, with newspaper inserts on 29%, the net on 12% and email on 10%.

"The coveted 18-34 year olds prefer, by a wide margin, to learn about marketing offers via postal mail and newspapers rather than online sources such as social media platforms," the study said.

It added: "The preference among 18–34 year-olds for receiving marketing information from offline sources led by mail and newspapers is two to three times greater than online sources such as social media."

Elsewhere, 40% of contributors selected DM in the financial sector, as did 38% for insurance, 35% for charity campaigns and 28% concerning travel.

The last of these markets was the only one to see another type of media assume the lead, as the web registered a rating of 19%.

Taking credit cards as an example, 70% of participants agreed branded email had an influence on purchase decisions, a perception that stood at 60% for mail shots, 41% for internet display and 19% for TV spots.

In terms of recall for these financial products, however, 33% mentioned television commercials, with DM on 27%, email on 22% and web banners, pop-ups and equivalent formats on 19%.

"The upshot is that regardless of the demographic, marketers need to deploy a multichannel campaign for topmost customer engagement," ICOM argued.

"Social media, like many forms of communication, should be incorporated as one component of a broader strategy."

Equally, while emerging mediums like Foursquare, GoogleBuzz, Loopt, Blippy and Groupons deserve attention, brands must ensure they have a presence in all of the areas frequented by their target audience.

"The proliferation of channels presents marketers more opportunity than ever to engage customers, understand their desires and meet their evolving needs," the report concluded.

"At the same time, it challenges marketers to abide ever more fervently by the first commandment of marketing: know thy customer."

Data sourced from ICOM; additional content by Warc staff