Consumer trust in corporate bodies is at an all time low, and it seems like almost every day there’s another reason for consumers to disbelieve big business.

The Evaporation of Trust

Global PR agency Endelman’s 2015 Trust Barometer showed a global decline in trust over the last year and the number of countries with trusted institutions has fallen to an all-time low. The chart from their report shows how consumer trust has fallen across, business, media and, astoundingly, non-profits.

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Courtesy of Edelman

When will businesses learn?

Consumer-to-consumer conversations happen at lightning speed across multiple devices. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and more personal channels like Snapchat and WhatsApp are facilitating them.

Businesses have nowhere to hide. Try and deceive and you’ll be exposed – big time. Transparency and authenticity are now mandatory. No ifs, no buts.

'...recommendations from people I know' and 'consumer opinion posted online' remain among the most trusted ad formats. - Highlight to share -

Brands, don’t fool yourselves – you can’t get away without acting authentically. At best, you will end up insulting your customers. At worst, you will see a big dent in your sales – though I suspect these days, the two amount to pretty much the same thing.

The silver lining in all this is that consumers trust each other. Nielsen’s recent Global Trust in Advertising report highlights this. The survey carried out across multiple generations shows how earned media, in particular ‘recommendations from people I know’ and ‘consumer opinion posted online’ remain among the most trusted ad formats.

And Nielsen’s data shows how this holds true across generations, with Millennials having the highest level of trust.

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This knowledge presents brands that ‘get it’ with an amazing opportunity to help their customers help each other.

Brands who enable their customers to share their opinions, thoughts and photos, and have conversations with each other, will find there is nothing more powerful than customers convincing customers.

Passionate brand advocates can be powerful allies to amplify your message, but you need to give them a reason to talk. Nielsen

As we’ve discussed before, it’s all about search, shopping and sharing. Focus on these three behaviours will ignite the power of customer advocacy.

But when you hit the advocacy ‘on’ button, ensure that you also hit the transparency and authenticity buttons as well. No fakes, no suppressing negative comments, no barging in on a consumers conversations with crass sales messages. Facilitate the conversation, and join it when appropriate in a trusted and transparent matter.

Keep it real and reap the benefits of customer advocacy.

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Why is authenticity important for brands?