For over 15 years, Edelman has been conducting annual research on consumer trust and for the first time, this year’s data shows that consumers trust ‘someone like me’ to tell the truth about an organization or company more than they trust the organization’s or company’s own leadership.
As Jennifer Cohan, president of Edelman, noted in her remarks at the PCPC meeting, a company’s employees are now more trusted than the CEO. She framed this as an opportunity, encouraging corporate leaders to “think about those employees as a sort of media channel.”
Drawing out the data, Cohan highlighted what this year’s Trust Barometer means for innovation and ingredients, topics of great relevance in the personal care and cosmetics business.
As consumer trust has shifted over the years, Cohan notes, that “business is [currently] the most trusted of institutions,” above governments, NGOs, media, etc.
Still she says, there’s a “fear of innovation.” Today, “companies have to prove that an innovation benefits the consumer,” explains Cohan. Consumers “presume forced obsolescence,” she says. So everything new has to be shown to improve upon any existing product or system.
Cohan emphasizes that “people will reject you if they don't believe that the innovation has benefit for them.”
Perhaps the corollary to this skepticism about innovation is social business, or those companies designed to address a social concern. “People believe that business can and should be force for good (and make a profit),” says Cohan.
To gain or keep consumer trust in the current market place, ingredient information cannot be obscure. Ingredient safety and quality matter tremendously to today’s consumer, according to Cohan.
In this equation, she explains that “transparent is the opposite of technical.” To educate consumers about the science behind the products and about the ingredients that make beauty beneficial, Cohan advises that brands use what she calls the “meme-ification of information.” That is to say “simple, easy to understand visuals.”
The new age of trust calls for a new model of branded media. “Our data suggests that each of the institutions [business, government, NGOs, etc.] can't just play in their own sandbox,” says Cohan.
Today, “marketing not just for the people but with the people.” Business, she believes must help government and other institutions make good decisions. And companies have to be their own media. “Own your own media. And, earn media along the way,” she advises.