Who do you trust? Businesses and influencers
Recent surveys by global communications firm Edelman show how trust is shifting
Distrust has become a typical attitude among people over the past several years
Increasingly, government and media are becoming less trusted institutions
Trust is increasing in businesses, as are expectations to affect societal change
Gen Z is the generation of creators of content and place trust in influencers
Brands are increasingly working with influencers to build up trust with customers
Changes in the trust barometer around the globe
Attention has been given this month to two major international congregations: the G20 Summit in Indonesia and the COP27 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt. It is not a surprise that global leaders continue to gather together to work through the world’s toughest challenges. What is noteworthy is the amount of trust - or lack thereof - that many citizens place in their government institutions, political leaders, and the media, covering their every move.
According to the global communications firm Edelman, best known for their annual Trust Barometer that surveys 36,000 respondents in 28 countries, faith in government and media continues to decline. By contrast, trust in businesses and NGOs are on the rise. 61% of respondents said they trust in business; only 52% said they have faith in government, and 50% have confidence in the media. Almost one in two respondents said that they see government and media as divisive institutions, which translates into low percentages of people who trust political leaders (42%) and journalists (46%). With the trust placed in business comes responsibility. The latest Edelman Trust Barometer for 2022 shows that 60% of employees want their CEO to weigh in on controversial issues, and 80% of the general population want CEOs to be visible in public policy and to articulate how their companies are actively benefitting society.
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Gen Z is socially active both online and IRL
On the front lines of social change are young people under the age of 27. A special survey by Edelman of Gen Z titled The Cascade of Influence shows that 2018 marked a turning point. That year is when “buying on belief went mainstream,” according to the report: 64% of respondents said that they buy brands based on their values and beliefs, a 13-point jump from 2017. This attitude has sustained over time, and respondents indicated that several issues are important to them, most notably how well companies treat their employees (75%), climate change (64%), racial justice and economic inequality (60%).
An essential quality of Gen Z is that they are creators: they have grown up in the age of social media and access to digital technologies that allow them to magnify their voice and influence. 69% of adult Gen Z (ages 18-26) create or share content online weekly, and 30% do so daily. All of this content is influencing not just fellow Gen Zers but adults of older generations. 71% of parents of children under 18 said that teenagers and college-aged people influence their purchase decision. Perhaps more remarkably, 51% of non-parents said the same thing.
Brands can build trust by turning to influencers
The Edelman survey on Gen Z and influencers contains some interesting perspectives. According to their findings, the top 3 sources of credible information to survey respondents were scientists or experts (66%), a person like them that uses a brand (61%), and a brand’s technical expert (58%). Additionally, respondents indicated that the most trusted qualities of an influencer are teaching new skills (40%), making recommendations based on their experience (37%), and sharing the same values (35%).
According to Edelman, trusted brands command a premium: 59% of customers say they are willing to spend more on them. Additionally, 58% of respondents said they are more likely to purchase when they trust a company, and 67% said they would stay loyal and advocate for a trusted brand. Edelman’s findings show that when brands are willing to take action on societal issues, Gen Z is 4x more likely to purchase. Conversely, Edelman’s survey results show if brands do not earn the trust of younger customers, they are less likely to purchase it even if they are initially willing to consider it. The bottom line is that younger people are looking to partner with firms to change the world and share their values; when they see alignment they have an outsized influence on multiple generations due to their high propensity to create content online.
What information sources do you rely on to learn about the world and make decisions? Are you a big consumer of traditional media or social media? Who do you look for as a trusted source of information on purchase decisions? How do you know if a company aligns with your values? Are you willing to pay more to do business with firms that share your beliefs?