A Question of Trust


Do you want to know what I love the most about Word of Mouth as a channel? And I’m going to keep it short and sweet – word has it people like to digest their content in short bursts these days (I blame social media) so here it is in 5 words, no superlatives I promise:

WoM is based on TRUST.

We inherently trust our friends and their opinions because we have invested days, weeks, if not years into our friendships. More importantly, we KNOW that our friends are not trying to sell us things when they tell us about their favourite shampoo or i-phone app. They are telling us because they mean it. And we believe them.

This is why it doesn’t surprise me that 20 – 50% of purchases are based on consumer-to-consumer recommendations (McKinsey: April 2010). There‘s an inextricable link between consumer trust & sales conversions; the more people trust a brand, the more likely they are to purchase. Contrary to popular belief WoM has never been JUST about creating mass conversations (yes this is part of the process), it’s always been about selling products.

If you want mass awareness in the traditional sense, then an ATL campaign will do the job for you. This will tell people about your product and ensure your brand is top of mind. When it comes to understanding the role of advertising versus the role of WoM, there are some key differences though. In my opinion, the biggest difference is this:

People don’t trust advertising

And the reason they don’t is pretty simple: they know that the sole purpose of an advert is to sell products. There is a hidden agenda that subconsciously consumers are aware of and this leads to a natural distrust.

Want the stats? In partnership with Lancaster University, Alterian found that a staggering 95% of consumers did not trust traditional advertising (Alterian: 2010).

So am I saying that there isn’t a role for advertising anymore? Of course not. We all know that ATL campaigns are essential for creating mass awareness.

However, new methods have emerged that create awareness without losing that level of trust. The diffusion of social media has presented a unique channel through which to stimulate mass WoM. People are recommending brands with the average consumer mentioning specific brands over 90 times per week in conversations with friends, family, and co-workers (Kellar Fay: 2010).

Furthermore, there are almost 30 billion word of mouth impressions on the social web each year in Australia! (Contagious estimate based on Forrester, Peer Influence Analysis, April 2010)

What’s exciting about this from a WoM perspective is that a channel now exists to see consumer-to-consumer recommendations explode on a mass scale – it’s simply a case of proactively putting WoM & advocacy at the centre of your marketing strategy to ensure you’re effectively capturing positive sentiment from those who are willing to advocate your brand.

And if you think about it from an ROI perspective – we’re not talking about reach here (people ‘hearing’ about your product or brand via an advertisement) – we’re talking about stimulating ‘personal recommendations’ en mass which by default increases consumer ‘trust’ for your brand. And the more consumers ‘trust’ your brand and the quality of your products, the more they will reach into their pockets and purchase.


Zoe Boalch

About Zoe Boalch

Zoë Boalch is co-founder of Contagious Agency. Zoë likes: hot chili, yoga, learning new stuff, positive people, taking risks Zoë dislikes: naysayers, grumpy people, rather large egos
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