When we’re afraid of something but want to put on a brave face, we’re said to be whistling in the dark. I suspect that many marketers are, or should be, doing exactly that. It seems, you see, that the level of mistrust of what brands are putting out there is so high that a significant portion of online users trust a stranger’s opinion on public forums or blogs more than they trust branded advertisements.
The Forrester folks found that nearly a third – 32% – of people feel that way. One response, therefore, might be to consider a shift to content marketing. As I’ve written before, since much of that sort of marketing is what one might term “sneaky” I think it compounds the mistrust situation. Maybe the right answer is to find and engage brand advocates – someone who enjoys your product or service so much that they’re eager to tell others about it. It’s not hard to find them – see who is engaging with the social content you’re putting out there for starters. Maybe offer them a discount. Maybe give them “insider” access or let them know what’s in the product pipeline.
Most of what you’re trying to do is to make them feel special because they are. They are a trusted resource to their networks and what they say is more believable to many than what you have to say as a brand. Of course that also means you can’t lie to them or mislead them. The stakes become higher since they can tear you down just as quickly as they can help you grow. Then again, since we’re always trying to be consumer-focused, open and honest in our marketing, this should not be an issue.
We can whistle in the dark and pretend all is well or we can think about improving what we’re doing every day without hanging on to legacy thinking. Your call.