Skip to Content

Lots of Brands are Talking, But Canadians Aren’t Always Listening

Vanessa Eaton

It’s no secret that marketers want positive brand awareness, media coverage, and audience engagement. At Environics Communications, we advise our clients to take a customer-first approach and to understand audience segments, their values, and how they engage with content before reaching out.   We counsel our clients on how to earn and foster trust, which includes using trusted information sources and channels.

Two years ago, we decided to explore this area further. Now in its second year, the recently-launched CanTrust Index takes a distinctly Canadian approach to measuring and tracking Canadians’ trust in many areas, including trust and preference in information sources.

The results from the 2017 CanTrust Index tell us that there is no implosion of trust in our country. Canadians continue to trust direct experiences with brands, recommendations from friends, and what they see, read or hear in the news for information about a product, service, brand or organization.   This year, the top three trusted information sources are:

  1. Direct sampling of a product or service (at 76%, up from 73% in 2016).
  2. Word-of-mouth recommendations from people we know (at 74%, down slightly from 75% in 2016).
  3. Editorial content such as a story in a newspaper, TV, radio or online news sites (57%, up slightly from 55% in 2016).

When asked to consider which categories of organizations they trust to do what is right for Canada, Canadians rank the news media as the second most trustworthy category at 50% (a slight decrease from 54% in 2016), second only to not-for-profit organizations (57%).   While there is an ongoing conversation about the crucial role news media play and the impact of shrinking newsrooms resulting in “real news” being in crisis, we are encouraged to see that trust in news media in Canada is holding steady.

Canadians’ top preference when looking at online sources of information about current events is search engines (at 71%), suggesting that Canadians are becoming more discerning in how they seek out their news and want to find the information they want to read, from information sources they trust.  For marketers, optimizing website copy for search (SEO) and investing in search engine marketing (SEM) by purchasing keywords, will better ensure that online content reaches consumers when and where they are looking for it.  The importance of search engines spans all ages and both genders. You need to make Google your friend.

Preference in word-of-mouth as a news source grew in 2017 to 67% (from 58% in 2016). It was the only source that grew in preference.  Preference for online information sources for news about current events including Facebook, LinkedIn and online news sites and notable blogs declined in 2017.  Trust has also taken a hit related to blogs from bloggers we follow (check out my colleague’s thoughtful piece on influencer relations for more on this). The considerable shift in advertising dollars directed at capturing consumer attention online, in addition to the rise of “fake” news and reviews could be contributing to some of these results.  Authentic and open communication consistently grounded in a company’s or brand’s values can help inspire trust.

When it comes to trust levels across regions and amongst men and women, significantly more women trust word-of-mouth as their preferred information source (at 44%) than men (at 34%), as do Ontarians (45%) compared to Quebecers (26%).  However, men (30%) and Quebecers (39%) put significantly higher trust in editorial content in newspapers, on TV or on the radio compared to women (24%) and Ontarians (23%).

So what does all of this mean?

Our study continues to demonstrate that Canadians place a high level of trust in hearing from people they know, in experiencing a brand, and in what they read, hear or see in the news.  These are valuable guides for marketers in their work informing, educating and building trusting relationships with consumers.

Here are some key applications marketers can consider:

To get the full results of the 2017 CanTrust Index study, feel free to visit