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Who Can Consumers Trust?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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When it comes to finding information online, who can one trust? Consumers are finding it hard to answer that question. There is so much information out there, it is hard to differentiate the source, the reviewer, and the uninformed. 

As assistants to "the source" we in AdLand have to make sure that we provide good content and information about our products and services for consumers to make the best possible decision. 

Even then, our actions can backfire.

According to research done by DKNewMedia and Forrester, 32% of online consumers would trust a stranger's opinion over branded advertisements. 

Don't worry, it gets worse.

In a report done by PR firm Weber Shandwick, 65% of participants they studied were swayed to consider a different brand after reading a review. But that's not the bad part; of those surveyed, 80% were concerned of the authenticity of the reviews, but even so, 77% preferred reviews done by consumers versus reviews done by editors.

"What we have here is a failure to communicate." 

What in the world is going on? Why are consumers choosing to trust strangers and consumer reviews — even when they doubt the authenticity — over professionals and brands?

At a time when we hear that our society is growing to embrace advertising again, we are bombarded by this research indicating that although our audiences may like the information, they won't trust it.

During the Golden Age of advertising, there was an information gap between businesses and consumers. Consumers had to rely on advertising to get information about businesses and goods in order to make purchasing decisions. We suggest that consumers still believe that an information gap exists (although it doesn't) and therefore they rely on their "insiders," other consumers like them, to see if the brands are telling the truth.

If that is the case, then it is our priority to show our consumers that we are telling the truth. We need to show these amateur reviewers that their investigative consumer reports are no longer necessary. Only then can brands and advertising be trusted.

Either that, or we build walls to control the information going out. The former method is a little more positive.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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