Tackling Consumer and Voter Trust Head On: It Starts with Marketing

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People ask me "How could 67% of Republicans still distrust the 2020 election?" American distrust of the government has been rising since 1958. Trump got himself into office by siding with that distrust and saying he would take away its root causes. Americans may have been subconsciously hoping for someone like that to come along ever since 1958 when trust in government began its drop. That makes it easier to see why 20.8% of Americans (67% of Republicans who are 31% of U.S. pop) could still distrust the 2020 election. Firstly, since they have distrusted government all their lives perhaps, and secondly, because they are supporting the party line. Even those who on the inside are pretty sure it was a legit election.

Trust in other things has also been going down over the same time period. A 2015 4A's study found that 96% of consumers distrust advertising. That same year (2015) Nielsen in a global study found that 83% of consumers still trusted each other for product recommendations in the form of earned positive mentions by consumers online. Sixty-six percent trusted the brand's own site. Fifty-six percent trusted emailed articles they signed up for.

  • Note that these non-advertising forms offer outstanding opportunities right now.
  • With brand content you have a tailwind of trust that you don’t have with ads.
  • The data advocate shifting more from ads to content in 2021 than was shifted from TV to digital since 2010.

In a 2019 five-country study, Kantar found that:

  • 70% say they see the same ads over and over again
  • 61% say they prefer seeing ads relevant to their particular interests
  • 55% say they are completely apathetic about advertising
  • 54% object to being targeted based on their prior online activity (and they don’t know that tracking their prior activity was the way that they could be sent those relevant ads, which 61% prefer)
  • 45% agree that ads tailored to them are more interesting
  • 44% enjoy more relevant ads
  • 11% enjoy advertising, period

These findings appear to have been in the mind of Keith Weed addressing ISBA in 2019 when he started the wheels in motion for the WFA/ANA/ISBA initiative to create a better cross-media audience measurement platform. He did so by addressing the relationship between success, trust, bombardment and measurement, when he said: "If we don’t tackle [the issue of trust] head on and right now, it will be an increasing challenge to all of us in the industry. A brand without trust is a product, and advertising without trust is just noise. Trust is the key thing we need to engage with.

"Brands must reduce bombardment, excessive frequency and retargeting if people's perceptions of advertising are to improve."

This brings us back to the issue of trust. Keith was wise to place this concern high on the list. It is not just for marketers. The whole of humanity needs there to be Trust On Earth.

It's good that 83% of respondents say they trust people who post things, in that at least we like to say we trust each other 83%. But it's also not so good, in that this 83% trust factor is the hole in the dike that let insane ideas poison the minds of millions of people in the past year alone.

I hypothesize that a study would find that the average person trusts other people more online than in person.

Brands need to start dialogs with citizens asking for suggestions as to how to get trust back into our lives. Not foolish blind trust but stand-up normal trust. How to deserve trust. How to earn trust. How to be trustworthy. How to teach your kids these lessons, while they teach us back.

It's one good use of the brand content opportunity. Ads can also help communicate trust and trustworthiness. So can programs, movies, music, books, articles. art.

Note also the recurring theme in the Kantar study cited above, that people like ads that are relevant to them; they find them more interesting and they enjoy them.

We have been doing some excellent targeting in the 21st Century. But it is strong only on the side of people's characteristics as buyers/intenders. I know TRA started all that so who am I to say it isn’t enough? But it isn't enough. Looking at people through a pinhole just based on how much they have bought of XYZ in the past, or what they've been searching for -- just the attributes that are of obvious relevance to the advertiser -- is a reduction of human beings to walking wallets.

How about what motivates the viewer? They like when they receive stuff that reflects their interests. Interests are the surface of motivations. Picture an ocean. The wave ripples on top that we can see from the air are the interests. The volume of water below are the motivations -- everything that goes on within a person, most of which never reaches conscious awareness.

RMT was invented to solve for motivations. Semasio has been globally operating for years solving for interests. The two have gotten together to enable targeting that includes the marketing characteristics but builds upon them with the motivations/interests.

Takeaways are:

  1. Consider and test a seismic shift from straight ads to brand content including within TV/video ad pods.
  2. Test heavy-ups in addressable TV
  3. Test motivation/interest targeting
  4. Use random control trials for all that testing.

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