Our passive drift towards a world where sensors, monitors and machine learning pose a real challenge to innovating companies.

Trust is a testimonial

The signals from our research on future trends tell us that commerce for new brands is going to get tougher. While shopping for consumer products is easier in many ways than it was a few years ago, it’s still a complex operation. We can all research online, visit stores and compare prices across media to get the best deal. You may resist a visit to the shops if you’re buying clothes, but Apple says that 80% of people who buy online have been into store first.

We read seller recommendations and take notice of peer testimonials. This might be the single thing that influences our final buying decision. Without buyer endorsements, we have learnt not to trust brand promises and to be wary of positioning statements that promise too much.

Trust is what everyone else does

So, we don’t trust things until someone else validates our decision. As James Clear says in his book, Atomic Habits, “we’d rather be wrong with others than right by ourselves” and this describes the problem facing innovators today.

Unless shoppers make independent judgements, we will all end up making the same decision and the biggest promoter will win out.

The industry that has evolved around these issues makes our lives harder still. We’ve all received advertising from brands who don’t mind where their address list came from. Scraped data is big business. Similarly, our passive drift towards a world where sensors, monitors, facial recognition, sat nav and machine learning push us into actions, is a real issue for innovating companies.

Trust in technology

Wearable technology is a relatively easy thing to spot. Phones, watches and tablets are part of the fabric of everyday life. As we use them, our behaviours are captured by some of the biggest data harvesters the world has ever seen: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple to name only the big few. These data-centric platforms have one objective: to advertise to you. Every feed you access is sending you adverts that respond to your search activity. You are being inexorably nudged towards a buying decision. You are sensing little acts of influence every minute of every day that you spend on a device.

Trust is a nudge in the right direction

If you are a brand and aren’t nudging your customer towards you, you are being nudged out of the market. If you’re a new brand, you have choices: stay local and grow organically, trade local and get ‘found’, or secure investment and dilute. It’s a tough one.

But all is not lost. Consumer inbuilt scepticism allows for some push-back. Why is your most frequently seen advert in your feed? Where does that email come from that reminds you it’s your friend’s birthday? Who knows that your car lease is due for renewal?

Our filters for advertising are as highly tuned today as they were when all we had to worry about were leaflets through the door and posters on the bus. But the volume of media we consume (estimated at @300,000 words per day, the same length as an average novel) makes it hard to resist buying something just to satisfy the pressure.

So, how do new brands break into a market?

There are many answers but the truth is, it’s going to take time. Tenacity, energy, creativity and bloody-mindedness will help. There are a lucky few who may gallop through this cycle and X Factor-esque quick wins may happen. Pragmatically, though, the best advice might come from the most unexpected philosopher of our time, Jack Reacher: “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

Target trust

Play the long game and build customer trust over awareness. Target trust over availability. In fact, target trust as your marketing collateral. It’s where ‘organic’ growth comes from and it doesn’t rely on digital endorsement, peer approval or huge media spend.

Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

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