Something is rotting in the state of marketing—at least, that’s what large segments of the public think. Studies have revealed that only 4% of Americans believe the marketing industry acts with integrity, which suggests that the other 96% wouldn’t trust a marketer as far as they could throw one.
Consumer behavior underscores the trust deficit: 26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile users employ adblockers to skate by ads as much as possible. For marketers, this has the makings of an existential crisis. It’s hard to inspire excitement or loyalty in people who go out of their way to avoid you and see you as little more than smoke, self-interest, and mirrors.
However, while Americans may not trust marketers or advertisers, they do trust themselves. The same study that found 4% of Americans view the industry with integrity indicated that 74% of respondents—the highest percentage by far—see themselves as having integrity. Thus, the data point to unlikely spokespersons for brands who the public widely trusts: themselves. It’s time for brands to call everymen to the stage and let them do the talking.
The most advantageous way to let consumers trumpet the benefits or advantages of your brand is through user-generated content (UGC) like blog posts, videos, reviews, or even simple tweets or status updates that discuss the brand. This way, the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth communication becomes a billboard for your brand so that you remain top of mind among consumers. Furthermore, since this content comes directly from consumers’ friends and families, it’s considered vastly more credible than traditional ads and creates a connection between them and the brand in the spotlight.
Better still, because this content features consumers talking about their experiences with your brand, it can provide you unparalleled insights into what the men and women on the street, in the aisles of stores, or browsing the web truly think of you. UGC is advertising and consumer feedback all rolled into one.
Of course, every silver lining has its cloud, and UGC isn’t without its drawbacks. Unlike ads, the content belongs neither to the user who created it or the brand it spotlights. Instead, the content and the corresponding metadata belong to the platforms on which it appears, which limits brands’ ability to monitor, monetize, and channel UGC. The emergence of UGC-specific platforms may be a solution to this that helps put brands back in the driver’s’ seat of this marketing.