We’re Low On Trust. Period.

Edelman put out a new study about trust and it has residents of Adlandia hopping.
Big Orange Slide says, “Just as many marketers are getting comfortable with shifting dollars to social media, Edelman’s latest ‘Trust Barometer’ presents something of a wrinkle in the plan: the number of people who view their friends and peers as credible sources of information about a company dropped by almost half since 2008, from 45% to 25%.”
The Ad Contrarian says, “Perhaps the most devastating aspect of this study is how it undermines the foundational myth of social media marketing hustlers. Their precious ‘conversations’ are apparently a whole lot less powerful than they would have us believe.”
Jonathan Salem Baskin, writing for Ad Age says, “Nobody with responsibility for a bottom line has ever felt comfortable with social media as a replacement for traditional advertising.”
Hmmm…everyone’s laser-focused on the “we don’t trust our friends” bit, when the reality is much broader than that. Let’s look at this graph from Edelman’s executive summary:
The takeaway is no one trusts anyone very much, especially when the source is dealing in any form of commercial speech.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Excellent point, and I hope it’s what I got to in my AdAge piece. There’s been a denigration of trust in society overall, and I don’t think we marketers have come to terms with it. Traditional ads don’t have to be inherently untrustworthy and social media don’t warrant our implicit trust.
    I think the takeaway of the survey is that people no longer trust one another either. I don’t think funnier ads or more socially-conscious social stunts are going to fix the problem.

  2. Agree with everything said here.
    But there’s a distinction that needs to be drawn.
    Nobody’s kidding anyone about the intent of advertising. It’s out to sell you something.
    Social media marketing, on the other hand, is different in a very unwholesome way. It often masquerades as a “friend.” It is often conducted behind closed doors, manipulating conversations, and paying militants to pose as civilians.
    It is contributing a new element of unsavoriness to the general distrust.

  3. @Bob
    Any contact anyone has with a brand has to be seen as a commercial interaction.
    And social media only works in the light of transparent day. No one I know would identify as a militant, manipulate conversations or do any of their social Web work behind closed doors. The promise of social media is to reveal, not to hide.
    So it’s hard to know where you’re coming from on this, other than your patented contrary place.

  4. @David:
    Dude, you haven’t been keeping up: http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/2009/11/social-media-cesspool.html

  5. Trust me, I’m up to date ;D
    Sure, there are social media abusers, but that’s true no matter what the topic is. 90% of people making ads today are abusing the public’s senses and their client’s wallets.
    There’s plenty of condemnation to go around. But let’s point out the advances made, as well. Pepsi’s writing the case study, as we speak.

  6. Jonathan Salem Baskin says:

    My two-cents is that Pepsi’s campaign is the most disingenuous, ill-conceieved marketing strategy in recent memory. I question whether it’ll do anything of long-term value for the brand or, gasp, sell a single can of soda pop.

  7. @Jonathan thanks. a glorified contest is probably how it got sold up and down the chain. but i hear you, it needs to be more involving for Pepsi’s customers and more genuine. so what are some other social media case studies that highlight best (or better) practices?