I was reading about a study done by the Nielsen folks which measured how people are influenced by different sources of information.
Since it’s Tuesday and we usually turn it into TunesDay, the song that popped into my head is Tom Petty‘s “I Need To Know.” OK, maybe not my best musical connection to a business point ever, but I think you’ll see why I chose it.
The Nielsen/inPowered MediaLab study measured the impact of product reviews by users, experts and brands to understand if one form provided a higher impact with consumers than another. You can read about the study here. The results show that expert content— credible, third-party articles and reviews—is the most effective source of information in impacting consumers along all stages of the purchase process across product categories. Frankly, the results gave me hope. After all, many of the marketing tactics I see suggested by some of my less scrupulous peers seem not to have the sort of impact their advocates would suggest. Advertising disguised as content, fake reviews, or even “unbiased” product information on the company website seem to have been sussed out and dismissed by consumers if one believes the data. I particularly liked this:
The perceived partiality of the source was especially critical in setting expert content and branded content apart. The third-party element was important to consumers: 50% indicated that they wouldn’t trust a product’s branded website for an unbiased assessment of a product, and 61% were less likely to trust product reviews paid for by the company selling the product. Expert content can provide an unbiased and honest assessment of a product, particularly important during the final stage of purchase consideration.
There are cases such as with video game reviews where user comments and reviews are perceived highly. Obviously someone who has played the game has the low-level of expertise needed to be reliable and trustworthy. As the report I read states:
The report concludes by noting that, overall, the research suggests that there is a higher degree of trust from consumers when they are reading content from credible, third-party experts. This trust is demonstrated by the higher lift scores with regard to product familiarity, affinity and purchase intent and its perception of being highly informative and unbiased.
So what the song says is appropriate because consumers do need to know and do a lot of research to find out:
I need to know, I need to know
Cause I don’t know how long I can hold on
If you’re making me wait, if you’re leadin’ me on
I need to know
Even if the above refers to a romantic relationship and not to a purchase. Then again, isn’t that sort of what a product purchase is?