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Consumers listen to gossip and research online before deciding to buy

14th February 2012

According to a recent report by Weber Shandwick, how consumers view a company’s reputation is critical to their purchasing decisions. Seventy per cent of consumers surveyed avoid buying products if they do not like the parent company. Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist Leslie Gaines-Ross adds “Our research confirms that corporate and brand reputations are now nearly indivisible. The company standing behind the brand assures consumers that they can trust the quality, ethics and safety of the brands they are buying.”

Consumers report that they...

Source: The Company Behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust report by Weber Shandwick

Modern consumers like to know about the businesses they are buying from. The research shows that they check labels and do research before buying, and if they don’t like what they find out, they shop elsewhere. Gaines-Ross says: “Consumers are no longer passive or in the dark. They are in the driver’s seat. Whether they are steered by where goods are manufactured, how employees are treated, what a company is doing for (or to) the environment, or a host of other reasons, consumers made it abundantly clear in our survey that they want to know where their money is going and who they are supporting by buying their goods. In this new decade of financial constraints where consumers feel that they have far less say over their economic futures than they did years ago, consumers are taking greater control over what brands they buy.”

So how do consumers do their research about companies? The biggest source of information is gossip, with 88 per cent saying that they are influenced by what people say. Online research is also highly rated, with 83 per cent checking out online reviews. News sources and company websites are highly influential for learning about companies (79 per cent and 74 per cent respectively).

What influences consumer perceptions about companies?
(% Very/somewhat influential on consumer opinion)

Source: The Company Behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust report by Weber Shandwick

Other notable sources of influence on company perceptions include awards and rankings, leadership communications and advertising, all were cited by over half of consumers surveyed. Gaines-Ross comments: “Consumers are searching for confirmation that the company behind the brand is endorsed by others.”

Social networks were rated as having the least influence (49 per cent) on company opinion by consumers. Gaines-Ross says that the reason for this is probably due to the fact that most companies have yet to fully embrace social media in a way that resonates and truly engages the increasingly cynical public. However, she adds: “We all know that the influence of social networks is growing fast. Once companies figure out how to best use social media to demonstrate their receptivity and customer focus, social media will be the consumer’s best friend.”


Weber Shandwick and its research arm, KRC Research, conducted an online survey among both consumers and executives. The research was conducted in October and November 2011 among 1,375 consumers aged over 18, and 575 senior executives in companies with revue of $500 million or more. Respondents were located in four key markets, the US, UK, China and Brazil.

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