Communicating with shared values increases consumer trust

December 5, 2017

When it comes to the credibility of food news and information, truth is relative, according to new research from The Center for Food Integrity (CFI). The study identified five consumer segments, how each defines truth, and how food news and information move through culture. It provides the food and agriculture industries insights into which segments are driving food trends and how—and where—to connect with them to earn trust.

Through digital ethnography, CFI observed 8,500 consumers online across multiple social channels. Going back two years, the study forensically examined their behaviors, identifying beliefs, values, fears, and unspoken motivations when it comes to food information.

Credibility of information is tied to each segment’s relationship to truth. It spans a spectrum ranging from the Scientific, who defines truth as objective, evidence-based science, to the Existentialist who defines it as “what feels true.” The Scientifics have difficulty relating to mainstream consumers so their influence extends only as far as the next segment, the Philosopher, who takes the evidence-based science, simplifies it, and filters it through an ethical lens.

The Philosopher has considerable influence on the middle, and largest consumer segment, the Follower. Representing 39% of the population, Followers fear making the wrong decision for themselves and their families when it comes to food. They want easy-to-understand, unambiguous answers to their questions, and assurances that they’re doing the right thing, which Philosophers provide. More importantly, they value trusted sources they can relate to. That’s where shared values, or the ethics, that drive our beliefs, decisions, and opinions are critical.

“Communicating with values that others share, or can relate to, is the key to earning trust, according to our CFI trust model,” said Charlie Arnot, CEO of CFI. “In fact, the model shows that communicating with shared values is three-to-five times more important to earning trust than simply sharing facts. That’s why the objective information shared by Scientifics doesn’t resonate with others.”

“The opportunity for the food industry to earn trust is consistent and long-term values-based engagement with Philosophers and Followers. A rational argument grounded in ethics is their truth,” said Arnot.

Press release (pdf)

CFI report