Why Brands Can’t Build Trust on Digital Alone

It’s no picnic being a marketer these days. As Jeremy Kressman writes in Emarketer, “the methods and sources consumers use to vet products online is undergoing a significant shift.”

“Even as some consumers place less trust in brand messages like ads, and more trust in sources like online reviews, other consumers say the opposite,” Kressman writes. “This split is creating a dilemma for marketers as they seek to find the most effective, and trustworthy, ad formats and marketing tools to reach online shoppers.”

A Salesforce survey points out the divide in this chart. Online reviews become less important for older consumers, while trust in the brand itself is not as important as influencer marketing for younger consumers. Depending on audience, marketers need to be savvy about these preferences when creating their digital strategies.

One thing is pretty clear though, regardless of age group: Consumers trust traditional media like print and television far more than they trust digital ads.

Kressman points to last fall’s MarketingSherpa survey that found 80% of online consumers in the U.S. trust print and TV ads, while less than half that many (39%) trust mobile ads and banner ads. In fact, print ads in newspapers and magazines top the trust list, followed by TV ads, catalogs, radio ads and outdoor ads. All forms of digital advertising – from video prerolls to search engine recommendations – fall below traditional ads in terms of trust.

We talk about the trust bump of printed ads around here, and it’s increasingly obvious that this is a real phenomenon. And so is the growing unease over digital, as industry execs tell digital advertising to grow up.

Brand trust is critical; companies are striving to become meaningfully different to their audience. And they know they are just one bad ad placement away from disaster. They are looking to safe harbor, provided by print ads and other traditional media.

Again, it’s about balance, people. Digital is great for discovery and exposure. But when it comes down to building trust in your good name, there is no better place to do this than in print.