Word-of-Mouth Still King; Is There a Way to Beat It?


For a long time now, people have trusted what their friends have to say over what advertisements are telling them. A recommendation from a friend or a past customer usually seems like the most direct and honest way for consumers to get information on a business, product, or brand. This slight distrust in advertising is due to a number of false advertising cases over the years, and now people put a bit more research into something before believing everything the advertisements are telling them. Don’t get me wrong, paid ads are doing their job significantly well, but earned advertising is what any and every business or brand should strive for, because that is guaranteed to see results.

There is not much a marketer can do in the way of earning the trust of consumers and having them share their good opinions, other than of course actually offering a good quality service or product. However, I am sure there are now ways to encourage people to promote a business, regardless of the quality of its services or products.

Anyway, the reason this topic comes up is because of a new report released by Nielsen, the well-known marketing insights company. Their study showed that, in terms of the global average, 92% of consumers said they trusted the recommendations of their friends entirely. Also, with the internet rapidly becoming the new word-of-mouth, 70% of consumers said they trust online consumer opinions completely. However, what is really significant about the data is that all of the least trusted advertising outlets are those that are online. The report showed that 40% of consumers trusted online ads found in search engines. Only 36% of consumers completely trusted online video ads, as well as ads on social networks. Online banner ads and mobile display ads were even lower with 33% of consumers showing trust in them. At the bottom of the chart lie mobile text advertisements, with 29%.

So, basically the data here is showing that no matter how successful online and mobile ads may seem, they cannot beat out word-of-mouth. However, Nielsen provides some good advice against giving up paid media advertising all together.

Instead, we need to start thinking of how paid, owned and earned can work together to improve trust and deliver better results. Marketers continue to discuss them as if they are mutually exclusive media. They’re not.  And now technology is blurring the lines of paid, owned and earned media more than ever.  Paid can now also be social, as social is often about paid. Owned can have paid embedded media in it. And sometimes, all three can exist in one consumer touchpoint. What’s a CMO to make of this trend?

This is a perfect example of how confusing the advertising world can get, especially with the constant innovation of brand new marketing platforms. The internet has given us a way to combine paid advertising with the recommendations of friends, which will ultimately lead to ad success. It may be a delicate and precise art, but there will always be ways to successfully use digital marketing.

What's your opinion?