The Year Of Trust: Why 2021 Will Be Ruled By The Consumer

The Year Of Trust: Why 2021 Will Be Ruled By The Consumer
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If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that consumer trust is not to be taken for granted. Here, Andrew Burke, managing director APAC and growth markets at Outbrain, takes us through what trust means for the consumer, publisher and advertiser, and what it means in 2021 to be stronger, bolder and faster…

Who to trust is one of the biggest questions of our time. I’d hazard that everyone reading this has at some point in the past four years stopped to question something they’ve seen or heard, probably on a daily basis for some.

In our realm of media and marketing the questions of trust from consumers in what has been done with their data have led to government regulation like GDPR and CCPA, and it’s also triggered the major move to get rid of cookies from most of the major tech players.

This has been a good start, but as we gear up in 2021 I’d challenge us all to think more deeply and really start to map out what these consumer-led changes are going to mean for your business and marketing over the next decade. They’re going to change an awful lot.

2021: The Year of Trust

Recent developments, including shifts in consumer behaviour, purpose-driven marketing and movements for change and social justice, have positively influenced our society.

Brands now have to operate differently within the digital landscape, including creating personalised diverse messaging and building trust online with consumers, which is a difficult feat without human interaction.

We know one thing is true – people trust people more than they do brands. They trust personal reviews, testimonials and ratings. While consumers are often wary of ads, hearing feedback from other like-minded consumers validates one’s own opinion and provides a fuller picture.

We saw how fragile this trust can be with the Facebook Boycott movement in mid-2020, which essentially saw the platform’s reputation take a nosedive in less than a day.

A number of Australian companies, most existing in the advertising and creative industry space, joined the US-led movement which saw these brands pull advertising across the platform in order to protest Facebook’s cavalier attitude towards hate speech on its platform.

The #StopHateForProfit was spurred by the death of George Floyd in the US, with many saying the platform helped drive racist messaging. This boycott was a way to pull potentially billions in advertising spend, ultimately holding Facebook hostage until it agreed to take a firmer stance on its users.

Although Facebook has regained some of this trust through some blanket promises to better regulate hate speech and moves around election advertising, many users will still have some trepidation about the platform until firmer guidelines are put in place.

Trust in the Ecosystem

Globally, GDPR and CCPA were created to set guidelines and boundaries on how consumers’ data is being used. But beyond that, these regulations help bring transparency to an otherwise murky environment.

In Australia, the 2020 ​OAIC’s Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey​ gives a stern warning to businesses that consumers increasingly refuse to tolerate poor data practices.

The study shows many individuals will take steps to protect their privacy, and most have deleted an app or denied access permissions due to such concerns. This new data-savvy consumer has spurred new regulations from many tech giants such as Google and Apple, which are now updating privacy standards to benefit their users.

​These concerns and new upcoming regulations are forcing marketers to relinquish much of their ​​dependence on behavioural data collection. ​Now, marketers must consider the​ new ​process​ for collecting an individual’s consent to data-gathering and processing​, and what it means to be active, versus passive.

For example,​ companies must ensure users are willing to have their personal data harvested across the digital and physical worlds, on- and off-platform,​ and most importantly, understand what that means for marketing purposes.​ Essentially, marketers are asking consumers to trust that their data is secure, while not being used for malicious purposes.

Challenging the Duopoly

This past year has been significant in breaking down the walls of the duopoly, with Facebook receiving much of the criticism.

However it’s not limited to the social sharing platform, as Google is being ​sued​ by the United States Department of Justice for violating antitrust laws. And these campaigns have led to a bigger battle, one focused on the spread of misinformation and fake news.

Enter the open web, a powerful alternative to the rose-coloured lens of the duopoly. Not only does it provide users with more options to engage with brands and publishers, but it allows for more seamless and native experiences, personalised to users.

Expanding outside of the walled gardens to the open web and native advertising will be crucial for marketers looking to continue effectively attributing their campaign performance in years to come.

The open web promotes trust and transparency, and provides opportunity to engage audiences as they consume quality journalism rather than the uncontrolled, user-generated content of the duopoly.

As brands prepare for the changes 2021 will bring, they need to remember that consumer scrutiny will only become more focused. Not only will people continue to distrust ads and marketing materials, but we’ll see a decrease in brand loyalty and engagement.

The principles of trust and transparency are central to Outbrain’s business. That’s why this year we will be leading the conversation. We are starting with ​Unveil: a brand new virtual event for marketers on January 27​. Because ultimately, consumers need something to believe in, and they need brands to do the same.

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