Nielsen is mostly known as the company that places a handful of boxes and diaries in the homes of precious few Americans and based on that woefully inadequate sampling determines the television ratings which drive hundreds of billions of dollars of advertising revenue. The company also provides a wealth of information about online commerce and fortunately it does so with a more sturdy statistically valid scientific approach. Its recent report on how consumers trust various forms of brand presence in a variety of mediums is of interest to all online marketers as understanding how the customer reacts to brand messaging is critical to creating the ultimate customer experience.

Most online ads are distrusted by the majority of consumers

The report starts out with some very troubling and what would seem to be counterintuitive findings with regards to how much your customers trust some of the most widely utilized advertising channels. Text ads on mobile phones are distrusted the most, with fully 71 percent of all customers stating that they either don’t trust that content much, if at all. Other strongly negative reactions are generated by display ads on mobile phones and online banner ads tied at 67 percent distrust, then another tie at 64 percent distrust for ads on social networks and online video ads, and one more match at 60 percent distrust for ads served in search engine results and television program product placements! It really is difficult to accept that what are some of the vectors which are among the most popular in the online marketer’s arsenal score with more than 60 percent of consumers distrusting them, but it is difficult to argue with these determinations.

Just about all forms of conventional ads are distrusted

The bad news continues for marketers seeking to build trust in their communications with their customer base through advertising. The distrust rate for ads before movies is 59 percent, on radio is 58 percent, in newspapers is 54 percent, and then there is a four way tie at 53 percent of distrust for ads on billboards, in magazines, on television, and in brand sponsorships! The tide only turns to a minority distrusting the corporate communications paradigms with branded websites and editorial content such as newspaper articles which receive a trust level of 58 percent.

There are only two forms which are trusted and neither are ads

When an online marketer is seeking the truly powerful forms of advertising which are trusted by the large majority there are only two in that category and perhaps not surprisingly at all they aren’t corporate communications at all. Seven out of ten customers report that they either trust completely or trust somewhat consumer opinions which are posted online, but even that strong trust component is dwarfed by the number one result in what customers trust: Recommendations from people they know! When a consumer receives such a recommendation they trust it at the 92 percent level, which is nearly a universal home run!

The customer review sites are your new preferred brand medium

The takeaways from this Nielsen report when it comes to creating the best possible customer experience for your brand are fairly simple. If you truly want to get your customer engaged and provide a completely satisfying experience for them, your advertising has to stop being advertising at all. Of all the avenues open to a brand in promoting their products and services through an individual not directly and personally known to the specific customer, the single most effective one is to solicit opinions about your brand and have them posted online. The customer review sites are thus your new preferred advertising medium and you should take all possible steps to ensure that the reviews you solicit are numerous and hopefully positive.

The conclusion to the findings of this Nielsen report are clear: Your customers don’t trust your brand, but they do trust their fellow customers when they are discussing your brand. That means that all the billions of dollars spent in advertising each year could readily be replaced by coherent efforts to incentivize customers to post their opinions! Whoda believed it?