Digital Media Forces Consumers To Drop Faith In Brands

Brands, advertisers, agencies, lend me your ears. It's hard to be the one to tell you this, and you probably already knew anyway, but consumers are not a trusting bunch -- and right now, they're not feeling the love. In fact, two new pieces of research show they simply don't trust brands or their advertising.

First of all, we have Rakuten Marketing showing that Britons are more cynical than their EU neighbours and American cousins. Nearly three in four Brits -- 71% -- find it hard to distinguish between ads and fake news. Or perhaps more accurately, they know the difference but see them in the same light. The Drumarticle, which covers the release of the figures, also points out that around half of British consumers recently told KPMG they are deeply concerned by the spread of fake news.

Which brings us neatly onto some researched published today by newspaper group, Trinity Mirror. It tasked Ipsos MORI with looking at the public's view on brand and advertising and the results are not very flattering. Some 42% don't trust brand -- and more than two in three, at 69%, don't trust advertising. Of those not in the distrusting advertising camp, 43% trust it less than they used to. 

The reason behind the mistrust is pretty obvious and revealed by the statistic that 58% of adults don't believe an advertiser's claims until they see proof that their products can do what they say and they have live up to their customer service promise. 

Just to show that Trinity Mirror has a dog in this proverbial fight, the public was somehow minded to tell researchers that 58% think brands need to think more carefully about where they place their advertising. I don't know about you but this is not something I have ever known the average person in the street to have an opinion on, unless primed by a news group offering brands a safe harbour for their messages.

Nevertheless, the reports seem to be pointing to a trend that we are probably all seeing. With the fragmentation of the media landscape and the ability for legions of social media accounts to spread fake news from pseudo news sites with an agenda, public concern is on the rise. At the same time, the barrier to advertising has never been lower. Any one man-and-a-dog business can set up an AdWords account or a social media profile and then get pumping out messages of varying veracity. 

We also have a very well-documented issue with influencers selling their following to an advertiser without always being up front about it and we have the same in publishing with native advertising. There are rules for what used to be called advertorial but they are not always obeyed beyond reputable publishers. 

So the challenge for advertising brands is clear. To start with, they have to stick to what they can deliver and not expect any form of trust until they have proven that. Then that message needs to be delivered within a safe, trusted source, and if any relationship needs to be flagged up (this is an advertorial, or this is an influencer we've paid), then that has to be clear.

Ducking these rules doesn't make the message any stronger because the public is already cynical, questioning claims and probing how a message got in front of them, if it's clearly not an ad. 

The big difference in recent years that I can detect is that there isn't a base level of trust brands can rely on to get a foot in the door and then prove themselves. If there is, it's certainly a lot lower.

Instead, brands have to prove themselves to even get the door ajar before they even try to be asked inside.

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