How did Traditional Advertising Lose its Trust Factor?

August 19, 2013
traditional advertising
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Written by Sam Freeze

Millennials, like me, have grown up being completely bombarded by traditional advertising at every pore available. They’re at every sporting event we attend, every newspaper we pick up and on every TV show we watch, but do we trust these ads? What should we trust? Peer recommendations through blog marketing, for one thing.

According to Hubspot, over 75% of consumers do not think traditional ads are based on facts. Just how many toothpaste brands claim to be “recommended by most dentists?” How many different motor oil brands are the #1choice of NASCAR drivers? Brands make claims that are often outlandish and founded upon loopholes in FTC regulations on advertising claims.

A general mistrust of advertising is both directly and indirectly learned in schools now from an early age. From 1950s Madison Avenue tactics to war propaganda, schools have taught that advertising is nothing more than a manipulation of the public, and often used with devious intent. Advertisements such as this Camel ad claims without citing any legitimate study, “More Doctors Smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” This seems ridiculous with what we know now, but at the time it had real influence on consumers.

With the digital era and the advent of social media, transparency and information is at the fingertips of every consumer and the good, the bad and the ugly can spread like wildfire. According to Brafton, 89% of consumers use search engines for purchase decisions, using reviews, friends or even online forums or blogs before we buy that next tech toy we want. We don’t take brand’s word as fact anymore, all we need to find the truth is ten seconds and a smart phone.

With such progressive education on advertisement tactics and increased access for consumers to technology, it has been hard for brands to hold trust with the consumer.

So what’s a brand to do?

  • Brand transparency goes a long way in “humanizing” your company. Bring the consumer into your factory, show them how your products are made and let them meet your workers. You want brand advocates that are passionate not only about your product, but also the values of your company. The digital era has given brands numerous mediums and outlets to show the consumer who they are as a company. Certainly not an opportunity to be wasted.
  • User-generated content is a great tool for brands to build trust with the consumer. According to a Local Consumer Review survey conducted in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. If the consumer can search for your products and find positive content that’s not attached to your brand, it will seem more legitimate.
  • Sell your brand, not your product. A brand’s online presence should be more about a brand’s values and identity rather than the products they sell. One of my favorite Instagram contests is Red Bull’s #SUMMERISHERE. You can scroll down through multiple pages before you find a picture featuring a Red Bull can. They made a fun contest that engaged their consumers with their brand without pushing product. The goal should be to create a brand that your target consumer wants to engage with and be a part of.


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