Here at Smoking Gun we’ve long been advocates of transparency and honesty amongst brands- the best policy, you might say. Now a new survey has revealed just how vital that authenticity is when it comes to which companies consumers ally themselves with.
Stackla’s 2017 Consumer Content Report took responses from 2,000 adults in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, with questions focussed on the content they trust, share, and discuss amongst their peers. The results were categorical, to say the least, and can be broken down as follows…
Baby boomers want authenticity the least, but still want plenty of it
From those involved in the study, 90% of millennials- those aged below 35- ranked authenticity as important when choosing brands to buy from. This figure dropped to 85% for GenX (aged 35-54), and fell further still for Baby Boomers (55 and over), but even in this lowest group 80% of respondents stated authenticity was important.
It is impossible to ‘fake’ authenticity
OK, so this is perhaps an oxymoronic statement- authenticity is the opposite of fakery, and so clearly you can’t have both in one piece of content. But what’s important is that 57% of all those in the survey said that less than half of all brands created the kind of content that feels authentic. Furthermore, in 70% of cases, consumers could tell whether content had actually been created by consumers rather than the brand itself.
Trying to pull wool over eyes doesn’t just fail to win people over, either- it can actively lose brand support. Across the three age groups, an average of 20% of respondents said they would unfollow a brand that had attempted to pass off content as authentic.
Consumer-created content is king for authenticity
So what is perceived as ‘authentic content’? For starters, nothing that comes from ‘stock’- only 8% of respondents said this felt authentic. Just 20% would agree that brand-made content could be authentic, whereas a persuasive 60% stated consumer created content was authentic.
Influencers are on the wane
While we will never completely reject the power of influencers, our blog has regularly looked at problems with influencer marketing– namely brands getting into bed with the wrong public figure, or paying for endorsements without labelling those recommendations as adverts. And it seems we’re not the only ones who have grown wise to how misleading the practice can be.
Here’s how the circle of trust breaks down in terms of purchasing decisions for millennials:
*Family members – trusted by 70% of respondents
*Friends – trusted by 70% of respondents
*Brands – trusted by 47% of respondents
*Acquaintance – trusted by 39% of respondents
*Demographic qualities – trusted by 35% of respondents
*Celebrities or influencers – trusted by 33% of respondents
By comparison, the overall responses- i.e. from all age groups in the survey- painted a slightly different picture percentage-wise, but the league table looks the same:
*Family members – trusted by 61%
*Friends – trusted by 59%
*Brands- trusted by 42%
*Acquaintance – trusted by 31%
* Demographic qualities – trusted by 25%
* Celebrities or influencers – trusted by 23%
What this means for brands and marketers
For starters, user generated content is now king in terms of how much it influences people, the brands they trust and what they buy. As such, companies that are utilising this concept can expect some great return on their campaign investments, providing, of course, that user generated content is relevant to overall aims and goals.
Secondly, it could potentially be damaging for brands to produce content that tries to appear as user generated, or authentic. In short, now is the time to look at how you are engaging with established fans and followers, and how you are utilising their support in a way that serves your brand’s marketing push.