Mintel’s latest exclusive consumer research reveals how deteriorating faith in politicians and the media is weakening consumer trust in FMCG companies across Europe. In part two of our ‘The truth about trust’ blog series, Senior Trends Consultant Richard Cope discusses how trust can be won through teaching, shortcutting, friendship and by pursuing progressive policies.

In a culture defined by digital visuals, it’s unsurprising that younger consumers trust their eyes foremost and Mintel research shows that 59% of 10-15 year old girls choose a beauty product because they “like the look of it” – the top response. However, because this generation is attuned to – and a practiced user of – digital fakery, their response to “not liking brands who use airbrushing in photos” is even higher at 62%.

In response, brands are asserting visual authenticity to win trust, embodied by Vogue UK’s “model-free” November 2016 issue, McDonald’s #NoFilter approach to its Dutch Instagram channel and spirit brands Glenfiddich and Patrón Tequila which are using virtual reality (VR) to immerse us in reassuring the behind-the-scenes authenticity and purity of their manufacturing processes.

Another way to win trust is through visual simplicity and this is especially pertinent when it comes to labelling, with 43% of UK consumers telling Mintel that, “excessive information on food/drink packaging can make it hard to trust a brand (eg long descriptions, too many claims/logos)”. A future of clear, visual, emoji-style labelling beckons, in a bid to communicate simplicity, natural qualities and trustworthiness.

The biggest visual trend of recent times has been the emergence of live-streaming apps as a source of compellingly rootsy, amateur authenticity. Live video streaming service Periscope goes as far as to position itself as “a powerful source of truth”, a goal strived for most famously and painfully by the use of another service – Facebook Live – in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2015 by Diamond Reynolds as she live streamed the last moments of her boyfriend Philando Castile after he had been shot by police.

A desire for authenticity and trust is driving brands to embrace live-streaming concepts in their campaigns, from UK grocer Waitrose strapping a ‘Cow Cam’ to one of its herd, to Maybelline conducting a 2-hour livestream on video app MeiPai with Chinese actress AngelaBaby in which it sold 10,000 lipsticks.

Besides being factual or scientifically-proven, brands can win trust by using authentic, non-airbrushed visual proof, whether that be live-streamed lessons, VR content or clear and simple ingredient labelling.

Seeing is believing

It may sound patronising to assert that the intrinsic appeal of trusted brands is their convenience in fast-tracking our decisions, but in an age of expanded opportunities, where we face a ‘tyranny of choice’, this should not be underestimated.

Being the trusted brand of choice pays dividends: Disney raked in $7bn in 2016 from having the top 4 box office films of the year, because, in leisure especially, customers will pay not to have to choose. We live in times of unprecedented choice when it comes to music and movies, but the figures suggest that this is a wealth of options we could do without. There were 129 channels available to US cable TV customers in 2008, rising to 189 in 2013; however, the average number of channels watched barely grew during this period – from 17.3 to 17.5. In 2016, there were 8.7 million different songs sold as digital copies in US – more than double the amount sold in 2011 – but the number of songs that sold more than 100 copies remained the same at 350,000.

This brand-curated fast-tracking has permeated popular culture and how we peruse our partners, most alarmingly encapsulated in the UK by E4’s new TV dating show Game of Clones, where contestants select eight identically-dressed, physically similar people to compete for their affections.

Consumers need trusted brands more than ever to shortcut the ‘tyranny of choice’. By using the same communication channels as those used by their friends, consumers are afforded the opportunity to be honest, fallible and apologetic in a “post bullshit” era of advertising.

Richard Cope is Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel. He works as a trends analyst, consultant, presenter and facilitator on bespoke client projects. As a globally recognised leading trends commentator, he is regularly called on by media worldwide to provide insight and analysis into consumer trends.

Consumer Research

Consumer research is about people. What they see, what they do, what they buy. What they eat, what they drink. What they think, what they choose and aspire to.

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