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Consumers Buy Brands Based on Popularity, Not Trust, Study Says

May 24, 2017

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Consumers don’t consider leading brands trustworthy, a new study from Golin finds.

“Our research indicates that despite people being continually let down by the perceived trustworthiness and truthfulness of brands, they continue to buy their products and services” anyway, says Matt Neale, Golin’s co-CEO.

For consumers, a brand’s popularity has become more important than its trustworthiness. Having lost faith in brands and institutions, people are looking to their trusted tribes — friends, family, advocates and influencers — to validate their choices.

In partnership with the USC Annenberg School for Journalism and Communications, Golin’s study of 13,000 people on four continents examines the factors that make categories and brands pertinent for consumers.

As relevant sources of news and information, social media and television consistently rank first and second (at 59 percent and 57 percent, respectively), compared to 45 percent for word-of-mouth from friends and family. Recommendations from friends and family are more relevant to women (50 percent) than men (39 percent), the research finds.

Golin also conducted an ethnographic study of residents in two small towns, which it says have felt ignored by government, media, cities and brands: Seymour, Ind. and Preston, U.K.

Big data “only tells part of the story,” says Jesse Dienstag, Golin’s executive director. “So we paired our global study with some small-town intelligence… something that a lot of brands and companies are missing.”

Marketers are not tapping into small-town brand loyalty, the study suggests. — Greg Beaubien

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