A new Nielsen MediaLabs study called “The Role of Content in the Consumer Decision Making Process,” commissioned by Impowered, asked 900 consumers to review three types of content in a controlled setting – expert content, user reviews, and branded content – to see how each type affected their perceptions of products across a number of categories.
Here’s a recap of the results, and what content marketers can take away from it:
First, the good news: Consumers crave information, giving brands an unprecedented opportunity to win them over with digital content.
“This ability to easily access information from a variety of sources has fundamentally changed the way consumers research products and, ultimately, make purchase decisions,” says the report’s Executive Summary. In other words, consumers are more consistently looking beyond the ads to figure out what the best options are for them.
Now the bad… Consumers in the study showed some distrust of brands, and assumed that user reviews aren’t always authentic either.
“The perceived partiality of the source was especially critical in setting expert content and branded content apart,” says the study. Consumers perceived expert content (defined as reviews and articles selected from third-party websites and blogs dedicated to the relevant product category) to be ten percent and eight percent more informative than both user content and branded content, respectively. Additionally, 50 percent indicated that they wouldn’t trust a product’s branded website for an unbiased assessment of a product.
However, the branded content in this study was product-driven.
In fact, the study defines branded content as “taken directly from the official websites for each product.” There was no mention of blogs, company social media pages, or newsletters. Branded content inspired the most lift in categories where product specs were a critical part of the part of the decision making process, such as when someone was shopping for a camera.
Some categories benefit from user reviews more than others.
User reviews were most effective in categories where consumers consider their fellow users to be knowledgeable and trustworthy, such as in the case of video game players. The same goes for those in the study when it came to a car seat – they perceived the user reviews by other mothers more useful because they consider other moms to be experts.
The problem with the study? Not all branded content is created equal.
Good content strategy isn’t about promoting your products, but creating a relationship and telling the story behind your brand. A list of tech specs on your website is important, but it’s not going to engage consumers or turn them into brand loyalists. It would have been great if the study had included some creative branded marketing pieces to see how they resonated with consumers as well.
Overall, a mix of content strategy seemed to a winning formula across all product categories in helping increase consumer familiarity, affinity, and purchase intent. While the study falls short by not including the type of branded content that wins digital marketing accolades, it’s still a good conversation starter for marketers who are trying to make the case for content being directly related to purchasing decisions.
Originally published on Apr 29, 2014 8:09 PM, updated Feb 10, 2016