No Surprise: Consumer Tribes in the U.S. still don't trust advertising

According to a recent report from Nielsen BuzzMetrics, which measures consumers' brand perceptions on the Internet, U.S. consumers most closely associate the word "false” with advertising. The study also showed that consumers typically place more trust in recommendations from other consumers than in advertising. The report goes on to recommend that advertisers need to do a better job building trust. Of course the ad industry is up in arms about such statistics.

We’d like to overlay a little more insight on these raw statistics. First of all, advertising will never be a credible vehicle for building trust. Ads are great vehicles for creating awareness and will always have a place in expanding and sustaining brands in the marketplace (more on connecting to Tribes using advertising, to come). But trust is something that must be earned and cultivated.

Fundamentally, people trust others who share a similar interest, or express positive intent towards another’s interest. We as social beings are constantly evaluating other people, sources of information, organizations and communities to determine if we should trust them, often unconsciously. This is part of what makes human communities tribal, no matter how sophisticated. If we accept this, there are good ways marketers can create trust among the tribal marketplaces they wish to cultivate.

To find the best marketing methods for building trust with your customer, begin by examining the spirit of trust rather than a communication format or medium. People trust others whom they feel are like-minded or express a positive intent. They distrust anyone from whom they sense an ulterior motive, such as a motive to “sell” them products.

All buyers are looking for trusted sources to guide their purchases. They want to purchase goods. And they want to purchase the goods that help them fit into the Tribes they identify with and belong to. Yes, consumer recommendations foster trust because they are disinterested 3rd parties. Here are a few others:

Educational content fosters trust. Marketers seeking to explain, clarify, and help buyers navigate their choices or clarify needs are likely to earn consumers’ trust. Crutchfield, the catalog retailer of consumer electronics, has it down. Visit their commerce site to see how they market products and transact sales. However, seek advice in the Learning Center and find yourself on their parallel educational site Education has fanned Crutchfield sales into a thriving business.

Third party recommendation fosters trust. This is why editorial coverage is so valuable to a brand, and prompts Al Reis to champion public relations as the superior means of building brands, in his book The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. It is why companies promote the awards they’ve won, the new coverage they’ve captured, and the writing and publishing they’ve produced in their role as experts, like Apple Computers’ early marketing through evangelists (now alive as a theme in the ad campaign Get a Mac.

Popularity fosters trust. That’s why websites list popular searches, the list of items people who searched for this item ultimately bought, like or That’s why category-leading marketers like Avis (we’re number 2 and we try harder) promote their position in the market and why it works to get new customers.

Community fosters trust. Youtube is a popular initial marketing launch space because communities go there to find out what’s happening, then link out to retail and a variety of other destinations based on what their Tribe is talking about. Victoria Secret’s Pink brand line of apparel has been very successful launching campaigns on Youtube. View commercial

Personal touch fosters trust. Long the exclusive domain of relationship sales, now the rise of customer relationship management (CRM) through the use of database tools has fostered a way to keep in touch through personalized methods that express shared values and personal interests beyond the direct business at hand. Contact methods such as greeting cards for holidays and other events keep the correspondence personal. Targeted direct marketing to consumers has come to dominate the marketing scene, as evidenced through the growing strength of direct marketing agencies and their effectiveness at helping brands grow by touching individuals in ways they trust and to which they respond.

Building trust begins with integrity and intention. Marketers are strategically building trust as a means to building their brands by thinking beyond interruption marketing formats of traditional media advertising. They’re investing in building links with the Tribes they wish to cultivate as customers.