Study by Nielson Underscores the Importance of Earned Media

February 16, 2015 Matt Allison: Founder, Chief Strategy Officer

market_researchNielsen is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Recently, in research commissioned by inPowered, Nielsen set out to determine the impact of a variety of content types on buyer perceptions and behavior. Although the study was based on consumer behavior, we believe it is of great value to B2B and B2C brands alike.

The Goal

The researchers set out to evaluate the impact of three types of content, user reviews, branded content and third-party expert content. They wanted to understand how each type of content influenced product awareness/familiarity, brand affability ("likeability") and purchase consideration.

The Methodology

Nielsen chose an in-lab setting for this research so that they could be certain that the content used in the experiment, and only that content, would be considered. The study included 900 participants and limited people who were in market for a variety of consumer goods. Expert content included reviews and articles from third-party websites and blogs dedicated to the product category. User reviews came from major online retailers or forums. Branded content was content taken directly from the official websites for each product.

The Results

Each content type was able to increase product familiarity, affinity, and purchase intent. However, content written by credible experts performed significantly better than the other content types. In fact, it was the only type to demonstrate a strong impact on all three areas of the purchase cycle.

  • Familiarity: Expert content increased familiarity 88% more than branded content and 50% more than user reviews.
  • Affinity: Expert content lifted affinity 50% more than branded content and 20% more than reviews.
  • Purchase Intent: Expert content improved purchase consideration 38% more than branded content and 83% more than reviews.

The research revealed two primary reasons that expert content was the most effective in all stages of the buying cycle. Its perceived impartiality and breath of information set it apart from the other content types.

The Takeaway

For PR professionals, the study underscores the importance of earned media at every stage of the buying cycle. Owned and user generated content are certainly of value, but a brand’s content strategy should not overlook media and analyst relations. The study includes additional insights and we highly recommend reading the whole report.

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