David Yovanno is the CEO of impact.com, a partnership management platform helping businesses grow through partnerships.
Consumers have taken the wheel. Today, they have more control than ever before when it comes to how they choose to engage with brands. If they don’t want ads, they can block or skip them. If they don’t like salesy emails, they can delete and unsubscribe.
What’s causing this? Distrust. Consumers can feel skeptical when they see brands online, in print and even in-store. As a result, brands and advertisers must work harder to create and nurture good, productive relationships with consumers. It’s more than just working harder though. This change represents a major power shift.
Gone are the days when advertisers could create one TV or radio spot and the brand would see immediate return through increased sales. Catchy jingles have fallen by the wayside. Digital ad space isn’t even novel anymore—it’s just something consumers (mostly) turn a blind eye to.
Welcome to the New World of Trusted Advisors a.k.a. Partnerships
It’s a new era where brands leverage influencers, publisher partners and complementary brands to create an authentic exchange with consumers. These partnerships hinge upon garnering a trusted, positive reaction from audiences, which is key to the beginning (and maintenance) of any impactful relationship. For many, these partnerships are the key to success.
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Some of our more recognizable clients—including Spotify, Uber, Airbnb, BarkBox, Harry’s, Stitch Fix and Casper, as well as established enterprises like eBay, Lenovo and Walmart—have leaned into partnership programs. The results speak for themselves—these organizations are still meeting or exceeding their revenue goals, even when decreasing their advertising budgets.
Good partnerships facilitate connections between brands and consumers through trusted third parties who can authentically share experiences with their established audience. These trusted partners already have followers, readers or viewers who are usually similar to a brand’s target audience. These partners can initiate and support a consumer’s path to purchase because they’ve already secured the consumer’s trust and have established expertise.
This power shift has been a long time coming, but how did we get here?
As Technology Has Evolved, Consumers Have Lost Trust in Advertisers
The evolution of technology has opened the door for brands and advertisers to build more creative messaging. The internet, for example, provides many channels for brands to introduce, test and adapt their messages. However, this process can come off as forced and inauthentic. Combine this with consumers’ dissatisfaction with targeted ads, disruptive pop-ups or other poor ad placements that interrupt their experience, and brands can miss out on a potential relationship.
Savvy advertisers sense this frustration and have pivoted to meet consumers where they are already reading, searching and buying.
Consumers Have Taken Control
No one opens a browser tab to be sold to or bombarded with disruptive pop-ups, banner ads and sales pitches. If they’re curious about a product, most consumers today—especially millennials and younger generations—prefer to do their own research, vet brands for alignment with their own values, or ask trusted publishers and content creators for recommendations.
Consumers can now block ads and have more control over what types of data businesses track. Consumers have more authority over their privacy. Google, Apple and YouTube now give consumers control to block certain kinds of advertising by content. Consumers can also opt out of tracking—for example, Apple has enabled its users to turn off ad tracking on their iPhones.
Providing options for consumers allows them to remain in control of their digital advertising experiences. They want trusted sources of information to help them find, assess and purchase the desired goods and services. This very trust is not only possible, it is necessary to preserve relationships and increase sales.
Trust Is the Missing Link
Trust exists in channels where customers feel they’re in control and can hear authentic voices. Research shows that 81% of consumers take their time researching new products and consider many views from people they trust and don’t make purchasing decisions on price alone.
Consumers have access to many research channels including peer reviews, product comparisons and conversations among influencers, opinion leaders and publishers about brands and products. Brands benefit from leveraging as many channels as possible to relay the authentic and trusted voices that speak on their behalf.
The Power of Partnerships
Consumers turn to influencers, creators, publishers and/or brands they trust to provide authentic reviews or recommendations. When brands form partnerships with other brands or individuals with expertise, they’re able to speak to that audience through their partnership. Because of who they know and the trust that is endemic to their relationships, partners can smooth the way to connection.
To truly evolve with consumers, brands must create value for the consumer by helping to create authentic, purposeful, helpful content through the means that consumers are actually showing up for—information, not ads.
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Author: David A. Yovanno, Forbes Councils Member