Advertising used to be the way to drive sales, but content marketing is proving it's better at earning trust and fueling conversions.

As a marketer, you’re tasked with creating the right materials that will demonstrate your brand’s value and dispensing them in a way that feels natural to consumers. A recent study by YouGov demonstrates exactly why messages must feel organic – customers won’t trust them otherwise. As it stands currently, half of Americans think ads are fairly or very dishonest. To back up the claims made in sponsored materials, marketers should be creating archives of organic content on their sites.

According to a separate study conducted by Nielsen as part of its annual Global Survey of Trust in Advertising, nearly 7 in 10 people trust the materials on branded websites in 2014. Even more significant is the fact that two-thirds of Americans feel compelled to act by the content they find on businesses’ pages.

Brand content now more effective than TV commercials

Branded website content is now just behind TV ads in terms of spurring viewers to take action, 67 percent versus 68 percent. However, consumers find the content to be more authentic, because only 62 percent said they trust TV ads.

Only 62 percent of surveyed consumers said they trust TV ads

Word-of-mouth marketing still reigns supreme

Both fall behind consumer-generated reviews in terms of trust and action. Nearly 85 percent of people trust recommendations from family members, friends and acquaintances, and an equal amount would take action on those suggestions,

If there is no one to ask about the products or services, opinions posted online will suffice. Of those surveyed, 68 percent said they trusted consumer opinions shared online and 70 percent felt compelled to act by those reviews.

Paid ads drive traffic, but not always action

In YouGov’s study, it was surprising to see that advertisers’ efforts to increase trust may actually be taking away from it. Ads that compare the brand with competitor brands seem suspicious to viewers, as 26 percent said they are less likely to believe those kinds of claims. People are even skeptical of expert scientific testimonials, the study found. Around 29 percent said they are doubtful of ads using these as support.

nearly 7 in 10 people trust the materials on branded websites

Instead, it seems that straightforward content coming from brands and their in-house experts may be more effective at earning trust and driving conversions. Companies that are willing to invest time and website space to claims about products and services send a clear message to readers: We firmly believe this and think our offerings have merit that speaks for itself – You can take our word for it if you want, or perform your own due diligence. Today’s empowered buyers demand the freedom to make their own choices based on independent research, and companies that give them ‘just the facts’ will see the results in conversion and loyalty increases.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.