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Lightbox Loves: Peer Power

the7stars’ QT finds that people’s confidence in brands have diminished steadily throughout the whole of 2022, declining by 13% pts between November ‘21-’22. Last year was plagued by brands facing rounds of scandals and public distaste, with Balenciaga and Ticketmaster being only a couple of many. In a similar vein, celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres (arguably brands in their own right) have also fallen prey to online cancel culture. Perhaps what makes the sting of such scandals even more bitter, is that many of these names once held huge public adoration, but now Brits are fighting back against inauthenticity.

People are now seeking information from peers in their communities instead. Most people in the UK spend an average of 2 hours per day on social media, with platforms chock full of user generated content on consumer experiences, product recommendations, hauls and reviews. This has led users (who are already natives to the platform) to start using social channels as search engines in their own right, and consequently evolving their sources of influence from a top down approach (e.g. search engines), to a more peer-led means of information sharing. In fact, according to studies led by Google, almost 40% of younger audiences are turning more towards Instagram and TikTok for information, whether this be finding places to go for lunch or getting recommendations on what to buy for Mother’s Day. Not only does this signal a breakdown of information hierarchy, but it also symbolises people’s desires to decentralise influence and hear from a variety of voices within online communities in the search for authenticity.

The popularity of #BookTok is only testament to this, with brands such as Snapchat even starting to innovate with the movement and releasing features within their map tool, allowing users to recommend restaurants to each other. However, people’s growing bias towards their peers can also have negative repercussions. For instance, low barriers to entry when it comes to important topics such as medical advice, psychological wellbeing and finance can proliferate misinformation and have huge detrimental effects to people who take advice from strangers without caution.

Overall, peer prominence means that for brands, lateral communication is now more central to media habits more than ever. Whether this be through providing customer service on more personal platforms such as WhatsApp or engaging with trusted online communities, what lies true is that brands need to operate as more than just faceless businesses but rather cultivate personal human to human relationships founded on trust and candour.

Source: the7stars QT, Cybercrew 2023, Canvas8