This is the second installment in a series exploring attitudes to brand-produced content, brand journalism and brand publishing, based on a survey of 1,007 digital content consumers conducted by Toolkits and National Research Group.
- 71% of consumers say engaging and interesting content from a brand makes them trust that brand more.
- The same number (71%) also say that poor quality content from a brand makes them trust that brand less.
- 59% of consumers say they find branded content to be more interesting than commercials or advertising, and 65% say they would share engaging brand content with friends or family.
High-quality content can help brands build trust with audiences, but low-value content also risks significantly damaging consumers’ brand perceptions, according to new research by Toolkits and National Research Group.
In a study of 1,007 U.S. digital content consumers, 71% said engaging and interesting content from a brand makes them trust that brand more. The exact same number (71%) said that when they encounter poor-quality content produced by a brand it makes them trust that brand less.
The data demonstrate why companies should think carefully about the nature and quality of content they associate with their brands – and that value is becoming an important competitive differentiator as brand-produced content proliferates. When executed well, content can help brands build meaningful, trusted relationships with consumers. But if executed poorly, content could risk alienating them altogether.
The research also indicates the power of high-quality content for brands. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they find branded content to be more interesting than commercials or advertising, and 65% said they would share high-quality pieces of brand-produced content with friends and family.
Key implications for brands
Quality is king
Brand publishing has become a popular tactic for a number of companies as a way to tell their stories, build direct relationships with audiences, and over time, lower the cost of acquiring and retaining customers. But the data implies that simply creating content is not enough: Quality content is the key driver of brand trust.
Trust is an especially important currency for brands today. Research from Edelman shows that consumers now prize trustworthiness as a key factor in deciding which companies to purchase products from: 71% of people say it is more important to trust the brands they buy from or use today than in the past.
We’ve noted before that publishing is a long game, and brands should avoid falling into the trap of approaching it like they do some other marketing tactics – expecting results fast. Brands that don’t or aren’t able to prioritize quality may wish to reconsider whether brand publishing is the right marketing strategy for them. As Raju Narisetti, who runs publishing at McKinsey puts it, “quality has become table stakes.”
Less is more
Sophisticated brand publishers have understood that the success of their efforts hinges on reaching the right people – not just a large number of people. That same mindset applies to the content they produce as well.
Until a few years ago, content marketing prized volume above all; flooding the Internet with a lot of content was a popular tactic. But the data above implies that those days are gone. In order to reach consumers meaningfully, brands will need to create high-quality content that can stand out. Brands should ensure that they are prioritizing quality, even if that means producing less over time.
As more brands leverage AI tools to help with ideation and content creation, they must ask themselves if AI-produced content is likely to help or hinder the perception of their brands. Already, brand marketers experimenting with AI are running into issues of quality, forcing them to put into place more stringent mechanisms to ensure error-ridden or poor-value content doesn’t get published. As generative AI tools soar in popularity, those kinds of checks will need to become more common.
The role of platforms
Platforms have also rushed to prioritize quality over clickbait, driven in no small part by Google’s changes to its “Helpful Content” guidance. Google has long stated its search algorithms are designed to favor content that helps and informs searchers best, and in recent months has stated that its algorithm will now deprioritize thin-value content that’s primarily designed to generate traffic rather than satisfy the needs of users after the click. Already, companies whose content is not satisfying those requirements are finding their traffic has plummeted.
Shifts in marketing
The marketing discipline is also seeing a large-scale shift in what kind of tactics are prioritized and actually work. There has been a recent resurgence in brand advertising and brand-building marketing activities – which includes content. This has come in some cases at the expense of so-called performance marketing, as more marketing departments try to focus expenditures on activities they believe will maintain brand health and loyalty in the long run.
The data indicates that content may actually be quite a successful way to do true brand-building. With a majority of respondents saying they find content more engaging than traditional commercials, there are some indications that brand publishing may actually be a much more effective way to reach and speak to potential and current customers.
And as paid marketing continues to get more expensive, content may actually be a more cost-efficient way to reach more people. With 65% of consumers saying that they’re likely to share high-quality content with friends and family, brands should consider refocusing their energies on producing premium content that is truly in sync with their target customers.
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.