This is the fifth installment in a series exploring attitudes to brand-funded content, brand journalism and brand publishing, based on a survey of 1,007 digital content consumers conducted by Toolkits and National Research Group.
- 43% of consumers trust brand content more when it’s created by professional journalists, and 42% trust it more when it clearly discloses who it’s funded and created by.
- Other factors that drive trust include consumers’ existing relationships with brands (54%) and the presence of data & statistics (51%).
- Recipes are the most trusted type of brand content, with 86% of consumers saying they trust them either a lot or a little. The next most trusted types of content include how-to content (83%) and interviews with experts (80%), TV shows, films, and video content (79%), and live events (75%).
Consumers trust brand content more when it’s produced by professional journalists and when it clearly discloses who it’s funded and created by, according to new research by Toolkits and National Research Group.
In a survey of 1,007 digital content consumers, 43% said they’re more likely to trust branded content if it is created by professional journalists. Forty-eight percent said it had no impact, while 9% said it would make them trust it less.
Clear labeling indicating that the content is created by a brand also helps engender trust: 42% said clear disclosure makes them trust brand content more, while 13% said it makes them trust it less. Forty-five percent said it had no impact.
The factor likeliest to drive trust in brand content was an existing relationship with the brand (54%), while a close second was the presence of data and statistics.
Consumers appear to trust certain content types more than others: The most trusted type of brand content was recipes, followed by how-to- content and interviews with experts. This indicates that consumers are more likely to trust content that clearly shows how it came about and relies more on expert thinking versus opinion.
Reporting and journalism are differentiating factors
Brand content has a sameness problem. Nearly every brand publishes content, and much of it is similar. But to build audience trust – an important currency for any company now – brand publishers should consider investing in reporting and journalism instead of amorphous “content.” Consumer appetite for brand content exists, and audiences are willing to consume and trust brand-produced content if it’s of high quality. The data indicates that brands should seek to incorporate new information via reporting in their publishing initiatives as a way to differentiate.
Brands should consider hiring reporters and journalists
Consumers trust content that is produced by professional journalists, so brand publishers should consider if and how they can bring that talent into their organizations. This has already been happening for a few years; we’ve seen top editors and reporters leave traditional media in favor of brand publishing. Brands may even find that they have distinct advantages when it comes to hiring reporters since they can pay better, offer more flexibility, and even give them new challenges to work on. At the same time, journalists who move to brands often say they get frustrated by unclear goals and requirements and struggle to adapt. Brands should consider how they can build publishing divisions that attract reporters.
Show, don’t tell
Audiences trust content that looks and feels original and authoritative. The top most trusted types of content are recipes, interviews with experts, and how-to content. The data implies that audiences trust content when they can see how it is made, or what the information within is based on.
Data journalism presents an opportunity
Data and data-driven insights can be powerful tools for anyone creating content. Data-driven information is likelier to be trusted by audiences, and the presence of data and statistics is a top factor for readers when deciding whether they should trust content. We’ve noted before that brands have recognized the potential of data to help build their audiences – brands such as McKinsey and Slack, for example, have used internal data and polling to act as foundational elements for their brand publishing. Brands should consider if they have existing assets that can help them integrate more data into their content; and if not, if they should consider investing in research as a core function of their brand publishing initiatives.
Labeling and disclosures
Consumers are now extremely savvy, and they say they can tell brand content from non-brand content. This in and of itself implies that the lines between journalism and brand publishing are becoming clearer. Taken one step further, the data implies that brands should put clear labeling of who produced the content, and who funded it, and make this a priority in how they present and package their work. Consumers trust content more when it’s clearly labeled and disclosed, and only 13% said that they would trust it less if it’s labeled as being produced by a brand. As we’ve noted earlier, this is yet another indication of audience receptiveness to brand-produced content.
Trust begets trust
Good quality content leads to more people trusting brands, and poor content makes people less likely to trust brands. The data now shows that the tide also flows the other way: When people already trust a brand, they’re likely to also trust the content it produces. This has a few implications: For one, good content cannot save a bad product or service. And two, content should increasingly be thought of as a core competency for companies, a critical way they present themselves to the world.
Methodology: Research was conducted by Toolkits and National Research Group, a global research and insights firm that works with the world’s largest content creators and marketers. The study surveyed 1,007 U.S. consumers aged 18-64 who reported having a current or previous subscription to at least one digital publication and was conducted in October 2023. The audience for this sample was weighted to reflect the pool of total subscribers to digital publications in the US, based on a larger market-sizing study of 6,562 consumers.