MindFire Communications, Inc.
Your brand is what the consumer says it is
August 5, 2009 | Lynn Manternach, Ph.D.

When it comes to making decisions about which product or service to purchase, who do you trust? Newspaper articles? TV ads? Company web sites?

According to the latest Nielson Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries, recommendations from personal acquaintances or opinions posted online by consumers are the most trusted forms of advertising worldwide.

Nine in every 10 Internet consumers said they trust recommendations from people they know, while seven in every 10 trust consumer opinions posted online.

Forms of Advertising in Which Consumers Trust "Somewhat” or "Completely”

  • Recommendations from people known- 90%
  • Consumer opinions posted online- 70%
  • Brand websites - 70%
  • Editorial content - 69%
  • Brand sponsorships - 64%
  • TV - 62%
  • Newspaper - 61%
  • Magazines - 59%
Source: Nielson Global Online Consumer Survey April 2009

Consumers trust acquaintances and other online consumers more than editorial content, brand sponsorships, TV, newspaper and magazine advertisements.

When it comes to brands, trust is the holy grail. It takes a long time to build trust with consumers. Recommendations are a powerful way to shorten the path to trust. But it’s still not easy.

The only way to make sure the recommendations for your product or service are positive is to stay focused on the consumer experience. You can spend all the money you want on a professional-looking and compelling advertising campaign, but if the experience doesn’t match up, you’ve wasted a lot of money. In fact, you’re probably damaging your brand by driving consumers to an experience that doesn’t match the promise. When you overpromise and under deliver, you don’t get much slack from consumers.

If you’re serious about strengthening the brand, start with brand research. Your brand isn’t what you say it is — it’s what your consumers say it is. So ask them. Find out how your company is perceived, what consumers see as your strengths and weaknesses, and how they describe the brand experience. Ask them what they like best about interacting with your product or service, and how the experience could be improved.

You need to talk to employees as well. They’re a critical part of the brand and the consumer experience. Do they understand the expectations for a good consumer experience? Do they clearly understand their role in delivering that brand experience? Do they have access to the information they need from across the organization to exceed consumer expectations?

Once you have a clear view of how the brand is experienced and perceived both inside and outside the company, you need to build a plan. Brand development takes strategy, focus and perseverance. And it has to start internally. Aligning employees around a common set of expectations for the consumer experience takes time, but consumers will ultimately feel the difference.

Once you know you’re positioned to deliver the promised experience on a consistent basis, you’re ready to invest in a powerful brand campaign. And if you’ve built a solid brand plan based on consumer and employee insight, your brand is what the consumer says it is.

This article originally appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.

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