How influencers can help brands restore trust
Brian Zuercher
April 25, 2017

Americans’ trust in established institutions is at a historic low.

Currently, media and businesses are ranking as slightly more trustworthy than Congress. To say consumers don’t have a lot of faith in brands or their messages right now is an understatement.

Trust is fleeting, and brands need to make it a priority to build trust with their audiences.

A 2015 study by Ipsos and the 4As stated that, "Just 4% of Americans believe the marketing industry behaves with integrity, placing this sector below financial institutions, the legal profession, the pharmaceutical industry, Congress and professional sports in terms of consumer perception." This is an issue that marketers will have to combat head-on with innovative strategies, because research shows that existing strategies aren’t cutting it anymore: Only 22% of brands are trusted and fewer than 25% of consumers trust ads in print publications.

The role of influencer marketing

Regardless of medium, all good marketing is founded on trust. All good marketers seek authentic engagement with their audiences and tactics that they can trust to deliver these results. Consumers are responding to the brands that are creating real experiences and building meaningful connections with them. As brands continue to realize that the old tactics aren’t working, we’ll see the further proliferation of influencer marketing across channels and verticals.

The main benefit of influencer marketing is the acceleration of trust. Katie Cornish, former head of social media and influencer marketing at Nintendo and current head of social media at Novartis, states: "We want to reach consumers where they are, speaking their language, and speaking from someone they trust."

How brands are responding

We’ve already seen this come to fruition with great brands that are looking for fresh ways to connect with their consumers. V8 relied on perfectly matched Instagrammers to build awareness for their product lines. They used influencers to revitalize a legacy brand image ("We’re not just red juice from a can anymore!") and built trust through old-fashioned recommendation. Busy moms who care about nutrition recommended V8 as a great way to sneak more veggies into their kids’ diets. Their followers took note with tons of positive brand sentiment.

TAKE5 spent 2016 introducing their new branding through unique experiences for consumers like Uber riders and attendees of SXSW and Governors Ball. Influencers covered and amplified these experiences, showing their audiences that TAKE5 cares about the same things they care about. TAKE5 understands what is cool. Therefore, TAKE5 is cool. This demonstrates trust built through listening. TAKE5 spent the time to figure out what their consumers care about, they listened, and the return was an incredibly positive brand sentiment surrounding the new TAKE5 branding.

Moral of the story? There are no shortcuts.  

Why sincerity matters

Hiring influencers to replace your production content will not cut it. The world of content dictation is dying right along side print ads. Consumers can see through insincere posts, which damage both brand perception and the influencer’s credibility. For success, the trust factor has to exist on all sides of the equation.

Now more than ever, brands will need to find smart matches that allow them to authentically borrow against influencers’ credibility. Brands will have to listen to consumers to discover their passions and then meet them on their turf. And brands will have to be willing to take creative risks. We never said it was going to be easy… but it will be worth it.

Brian Zuercher is the CEO and founder of SEEN, which matches meaningful brands with individually chosen expressionists to build trust, loyalty and community with their audiences. Clients include Reebok, Marriott,
Scotts, and many others.