Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

People around the world are holding brands to a higher standard than ever before. With so much product information available to consumers, trust is the new imperative, according to the IPG New Realities survey 2018.

The survey measures consumer attitudes and behaviours in seven countries (US, UK, China, India, Russia, Brazil and SA). In SA, holding brands to a higher standard has translated into consumers demanding more from products, spending more time evaluating their purchasing decisions and placing a higher value on product information. The survey reveals that as information becomes more valuable, trust becomes more important.

Globally, according to the survey, consumer trust is at a record low. This is borne out by the Edelman Trust Barometer, which states that two-thirds of countries across the world are recording trust levels of lower than 50%, largely due to the fake news phenomenon.

It’s a climate in which consumers will turn to sources they believe they can trust, says the report. Brands themselves play a critical role in the trust relationship as people tend to fall back on the brands they know, particularly with the plethora of brand information available to them. Interestingly, SA millennials are particularly reliant on a brand’s name and reputation.

When it comes to sources of trust, the survey reveals that consumers trust bloggers, influencers and content that is posted by other consumers and that they will trust an influencer before they trust an advert or a celebrity.

The big take-out:

The IPG New Realities survey reveals that in an era of information, consumers need to know which brands they can trust, which is largely determined by a brand’s name and reputation as well as the influencers who advocate it.

SA consumers seem to respond well to advertising, reports IPG’s Terry Peigh, with trust in business generally holding up, though the survey found consumers to have less trust in government.

To combat the scourge of fake news, Peigh says, marketers need to ensure they are honest and transparent in all their communication and don’t do anything to create room for doubt in the minds of consumers. “Time and again we’ve seen that being totally truthful pays dividends for brands in the long run,” says Peigh. “The bottom line is that brands should not be afraid to tell the truth. Brands that try to evade the truth pay the price in terms of credibility in the [end].”

The survey also revealed that social media plays a critical role in purchasing decisions globally. This is especially so among young South Africans in a country where WhatsApp has been recorded as the most trusted social media platform. As a result, the role of brand advocacy is growing, with young consumers who feel strongly about a brand advocating it to family and friends by initiating conversations about the brand as a form of social currency.

This trend is causing marketers to sit up and take notice of influencers and the role they can play in a brand’s story, according to the survey. Marketers should be asking how they can use influencers to advance their brands and what type of influencer (paid, celebrity, bloggers or micro influencers – everyday users who advocate through word of mouth) will best serve the brand and allow for the measurement of trust.

Marketers should be paying particular attention to micro influencers, those with up to 5,000 followers, says Peigh. “In the majority of cases micro influencers don’t even make money out of their influencing, but consumers have significant trust in them.”