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Marketing

‘Brand awareness is high, understanding isn't’: Trustpilot has a new advertising playbook

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By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

October 30, 2019 | 6 min read

People might recognise its logo on the corner of another brand’s ads. They might even know it has something to do with reviews. But that’s where the understanding ends. However, with a new marketing team and brand campaign underway, Trust Pilot is looking to change that.

Trustpilot

Trust Pilot

Founded in 2007 in Denmark, Trustpilot is a global site that’s seen over 71 million reviews written about some 300,000 companies around the world. These companies are able to view what people are saying about them and put their overall star-ranking on any advertising collateral with a view to proving to potential customers that it’s a 'trusted' brand.

Trustpilot’s site is among the top 500 websites used by people around the world, according to ranking tool Alexa, and in the UK it’s the 27th most visited.

Despite these lofty numbers, just 50% of people in the UK can recall Trustpilot's own brand when prompted (London and the Southeast massively over-index, compared to North England and Scotland where it’s virtually unknown). In the US that drops to about 12%.

These figures fall even lower when people are asked to describe what the company does.

Marketing to date has relied on what chief communications officer and senior vice-president of brand, Glenn Manoff, calls the “viral effect” of other companies using its logo on their ad campaigns. Amid the rise of Airbnb, Uber and Amazon, reviews, he says, have become the core tenants in growing a brand.

“People know our company but not necessarily what we do. There's a lot of understanding and awareness that we're not getting because most of the story about Trustpilot is being told by other companies using us as a mark,” explains Manoff.

“Brand awareness is going up, but brand understanding isn't.”

What Manoff wants people to be aware of is that Trustpilot isn’t like Which?, a similar review site that uses a panel of ‘experts’, or other “closed door” review platforms where brands are able to pick and choose the best reviews they want to display and hide any negative feedback.

The brand's mission for recognition comes against a backdrop of growing distrust among people about the reviews system. Headlines proclaiming the ease at which online reviews can be manipulated have been denied by the company. But nonetheless, Manoff stresses it’s invested heavily in an investigations team to ensure any discrepancies are picked up quickly.

“We have about 50 people that work on the either investigation side or the technology side identifying patterns that look fake or look suspicious. Despite the fact that everybody is pretty aware that there's fake reviews […] people still trust reviews," he says

“It's sort of industry jargon that said there's an open platform and a closed platform, but those platforms that are effectively letting the company do testimonial marketing through reviews and one like ours, which is a transparent, open platform, are very different things that consumers don't think about. And that's a bit of the story that we want to tell.”

This led it to launch its first-ever consumer advertising campaign earlier this month. Called ‘Be Heard’ is rolled out in Chicago and Houston in the US, a strange move for a brand better known in Europe.

“We wanted to go first in the US because the viral effect that I spoke about is happening more slowly because of the scale,” explains Manoff.

“We don't have the money to just go big across the whole US simultaneously but there's a well-trodden model of trying to work out a city by city approach. Because it's our first campaign, we want to learn from it and what really works best and what doesn't and iterate for the next cities.”

With the £2m ad spend it’s experimented with OOH, but the vast majority of the budget has gone into video with Facebook and YouTube the main benefactors.

Amid Facebook’s troubles, Manoff admits it was given pause for thought over the decision to run a campaign extolling Trustpilot’s values of transparency and trust on the platform. But as Manoff ultimately decided, there was little alternative if it wanted to hit the high performance targets it’s set for the campaign.

“In five years from now we'll look at the world where Google and Facebook hoovered up most of the digital marketing spend, the way they do today has kind of pretty primitive, probably are pretty limited,” he continues.

“Facebook has incredible power in terms of targeting but we're not turning on all of that power because we've got very strong views about privacy. And so, we've had to figure out the line that we walk and that we’re in line with our values on privacy, which don’t go as far as Facebook would allow you to go in terms of pixels, tracking and retargeting.”

Building on the 'Be Heard' campaign is the top priority for the coming year; it will spread across the US before arriving in Europe.

But burgeoning marketing spend is now being managed by its first-ever chief marketing officer. Gabriele Famous arrived during the summer alongside a new top marketer, Alan Duncan, to lead its business in Europe.

“Marketing is going up a big notch,” adds Manoff, who remains in charge of the brand overall.

“Gabriele has come in to help us really build a much more sophisticated approach to how we do marketing. A lot of the marketing that we've done in the past has been based on how we take advantage of the virality of the product. We’ve been sales led. And that's changing. It'll now be more of an even balance between sales and brand activity.”

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