What do you get when you cross $584 billion in global advertising with a decidedly skeptical audience? Not much. Unfortunately, recent research confirms again that modern consumers trust “almost nothing” – discarding costly, honed advertisements much like fake news and Internet myths.

According to the “When Trust Falls Down” study, conducted by global market research firm Ipsos last summer, 42 percent of consumers instinctively view brands with distrust and 69 percent distrust their advertisements. Results of the week-long online community, three-hour workshop, and in-person interviews with 1,000 people are fascinating, but painful.

Consumers spoke candidly about the demise of traditional gatekeepers and how the rise of Internet transparency alters the marketplace. “In essence the Internet has turned us into a nation of researchers,” the report says. “All consumers can now fact check and cross reference anything whether it be a news story or an advert. And this ability to check has built cynicism as consumers investigate multiple sources to reach what they consider to be the ‘truth’.”

Among the least trusted sources of information is the “Establishment” – elites in power, big business and the like, that regular folks perceive to be “remote, unreachable, abstract, and self-serving.” The picture of a faceless brand detached from its clientele continues to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks marketing teams must overcome. To be sure, some organizations do attempt to close the relatability gap by communicating a larger brand purpose, but modern culture is an unbelievably tough audience. The Ipsos study shows 58 percent of adults are only convinced company values are authentic if they see “real world proof” that the brand is keeping promises.

So how can advertising managers combat such widespread mistrust? As Zoe Harris, marketing director at Trinity Mirror (the UK’s largest multimedia publisher), told Marketing Week : “Brands need to think about how they can connect with people in their day to day lives and whether their proof points are actually resonating. Is your message actually getting across?”

Winning Back Consumer Trust

While times have changed and consumer perception seems bleak, this is certainly not the end of advertising. Thanks to new technologies and social tools, marketers are better equipped than ever to understand target audiences and develop campaigns that elicit the right emotions.

With the average user switching screens up to 21 times an hour and being exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day, it’s no surprise that some brands still rely on wild, desperate claims to attract attention. Those efforts fall on deaf ears, though, further solidifying consumer skepticism.

Instead, brands that want to be heard need to be ruthlessly honest. First, recognize that consumers trust other consumers far more than brands themselves, for therein lies the future of marketing. No longer does advertising drive social conversation. Rather, it is the people who propel brands forward through user engagement, online reviews, and word-of-mouth influence. It’s simple, really. Be a believable brand with personable, relevant content, and you can expect big results.

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