Building up and breaking through, by Nielsen Media’s Kamesha Milton

Connection is a building block of trust in advertising, writes Nielsen Media’s Kamesha Milton.

The most expensive thing in the world is trust – it can take years to earn, and just seconds to lose, and forever to repair. In fact, any long-lasting relationship must begin with trust – if there is no trust, there is no relationship that can stand up to time and adversity. The same stands true for brands and advertising. Trust must be established between shopper and brand to get a curious buyer to take the leap, engage and then purchase you. If their experience is positive, a relationship is formed, and trust will build.

So often marketers are seeking new ways to grab consumer attention and start building that relationship. How can this be done? With all the fragmentation, noise and just plain old brand choices the question of “How do you break through?” gets harder and harder to answer. Or does it?

According to the Nielsen Media global ‘Trust in Advertising’ study, conducted in September 2021, the answer is as new as it is old: Good relationships have a personal connection. While personal connection is a key trust factor for consumers globally, it is most important to those in the Middle East when compared with the other regions measured.

The global survey is designed to understand global consumer attitudes around advertising. The 2021 study sampled more than 40,000 people across 56 countries, who were asked to share their trust in various forms of advertising across a variety of categories including food and beverage, finance, fashion, beauty and technology, amongst others. A key measure captured the level of trust that consumers have for advertising in each of the various categories covered.

The theme of increased trust through connection is visible across both earned and owned media types. The number one form of trusted advertising globally is word-of-mouth or recommendations by family or friends. In the current study, this form of (earned) advertising was trusted completely or somewhat trusted by nine out of 10 people – this is significant. Additionally, the second most trusted type was (owned) advertising in the form of branded websites with eight in 10 people trusting them completely or somewhat. These are notable global increases when comparing these same trust factors with the previous Trust in Advertising study performed in 2015.

The more traditional forms of media advertising – TV, radio, newspaper and OOH – all managed positive trust levels of 69 per cent or more, while the lowest trust levels were seen by text ads on mobile with 15 per cent of participants globally not trusting that form of advertising at all.

When it comes to Middle East consumers, the advertising they most trust by far is when they learn of products or services from others. KSA and Egypt consumers particularly stand out in this regard. 

Age does play a role in the forms of advertising most trusted. Globally, the younger generations trust word-of-mouth recommendations most, with the Silent Gen (65+) and Boomers (50-64) having some of the highest percentages of those who do not trust any form of advertising at all.

Another essential consideration when examining consumer relationships with advertising is resonance. Messaging is clearly a key consideration with any form of advertising. After all, what is the point of designing an ad that resonates with absolutely no one?

This examination of brand messaging produced interesting results globally. While humorous messages resonated most with those in Central and Eastern Europe, consumers in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America were most moved by advertising that dealt with genuine and family situations.   

In the Middle East, consumers are not impressed by athletes or animals, according to the study. These types of ads resonate the least. People want the advertising to be relatable and familiar, and marketers would be smart to creatively make room for real life and family situations for optimal resonance.

Trust is needed before taking a risk. There is risk in brand relationships like in any other relationship. Is there risk in buying that H&M shirt over choosing one from Centrepoint? What is the risk in deciding which toothbrush brand to use? Of course, some purchase choices are low risk, but many others can be high risk. It matters what airline you fly with. How about where you buy your coffee, or the cup the hot liquid is delivered in? Trust exists in all these relationships. Trust is easily overlooked by consumers; it shouldn’t be
by marketers.

It goes without saying that fundamentally the product needs to be good quality and meet a need or else it will not generate the interest that gets people talking to their friends, their friends’ friends and that family member that trusts what they trust.

What we can learn from the Nielsen Trust in Advertising study about consumers, especially the Middle East consumer, is connection comes first. Connect with them through their relationships. Connect with them through what they care about.