Trust in marketing is in the eye of the beholder

Neilsen’s Global Survey of Trust in Advertising is an interesting gauge of consumer attitudes towards marketing. This year’s study polled 30,000 people across 60 countries and produced a league table of the most trusted to the least trusted marketing channels. Unsurprisingly word of mouth recommendations from friends and family was found to be the most trusted form of marketing, with mobile ads (also unsurprisingly, given the very personal nature of the mobile phone) receiving the wooden spoon.

Whilst the Neilsen survey gives an indication to marketers about channel choice (although it is not comprehensive as direct mail was not one of the 19 channels measured; despite being the third largest medium by spend in the UK) the study is really a lesson in best practice. Yes on a very superficial level it provides information about the attitudes of consumers towards various marketing disciplines, but what it really should do is make marketing directors assess the trustworthiness of their whole stable of customer communications. Trust is in the eye of the beholder. Take for instance the following scenario:

An 18 year old is looking to secure his first credit card and asks friends and family for advice. Who is he going to trust more? His dad, a financial advisor or his sister’s best friend who has just received a CCJ for defaulting on her credit card. Trust depends on the context of the communication at the time.

This is why, no matter the form of marketing activity undertaken, brands need to have a clear understanding of their customers; their motivations, wants, needs, personalities etc. and ultimately an appreciation of what is appropriate for each individual customer. Mailing someone that has passed away, for example, is a cardinal sin. Numerous studies show that the world’s most trusted brands are also the most profitable. This is no coincidence. Adhering to best practice should therefore be the number one priority for organisations looking to build strong, long and mutually beneficial relationships with their customers. For example when Fender, one of the most trusted music brands in the world, launched a branded magazine its customers actively welcomed it. The ethos of the magazine was not to sell, but to aid the Fender fan on their Fender journey. Following the launch of the title Fender was inundated with requests to be added to the mailing list. Undoubtedly a trusted form of marketing.

The morale of this story, therefore, is for marketing directors not to wring their hands in anguish over the fact that mobile advertising is not trusted, but to ensure that their mobile advertising is relevant and inoffensive to the people they are reaching so that it is trusted and well received. As Aleksandr Meerkat would say: Simples.