How Brands Can Thrive Amid Consumer Distrust 08/12/2019August 13, 2019
The era of “fake news,” populism, and declining faith in institutions has eroded public confidence in virtually all information sources. Google Trends shows that the
word “fake” has generally surpassed “trust” as a search term, beginning around the time of the 2016 Presidential election.
Marketers and technology
companies haven’t helped things, with the advent of “fake influencers,” concerning data breaches and worries over spying on consumers. The trend is spurring major brand
marketers to look for new strategies to communicate with skeptical consumers.
Marketers need to rethink their decisions about media, consumer targeting, messaging, and
spokespersons in order to succeed in an era of consumer distrust.
UM’s long-running Wave global survey recently explored the issue of trust and found disturbingly low confidence in the perceived “truthfulness” of
virtually every information source in our lives. For the first time, the study asked how often each of 13 information sources were “truthful,” using the following answer choices:
The groups being rated ranged from experts and family members to bloggers and the government. The big
eye-opener is that in the United States, no group — not even experts and family members — was rated truthful over 75% of the time by even one-third of the public. That suggests the US
public believes their own family members are liars at least one-fourth of the time! Indeed, according to anther UM survey, Media in Mind, among those who live with their spouse or partner, only 54%
agree a lot that they trust my partner completely.
While no group is broadly trusted, there are significant differences
among groups. When we combine answers to see who is thought to be truthful at least half of the time, we find that two-thirds of the public give reasonable credibility to both experts and members of
their families. A majority also trust friends and search engines at least half of the time.
Just under half of the public think the following groups are truthful most of
the time: Colleagues/classmates; newspapers; and television. At the bottom of the list? Bloggers, the government, and celebrities. The American public now places the credibility of government
alongside bloggers and celebrities.
Because this question about trustworthiness was a new Wave question, we don’t have the past trend. But the study did have a trend for
whether people are “influenced by opinions shared online” and whether they “trust bloggers/vloggers” opinions on products and services. The trends are steeply down since the
prior wave that was in the field just prior to the 2016 election and released in 2017.
Interestingly, key ethnic segments, Latinos and African Americans,
appear to be more resilient to the recent downward shift. Both demographics are above the current levels, with Latinos +6 points higher and Blacks +2 points higher. Key positive drivers of this uplift