I visited our offices in Australia and Singapore last month where we shared our new Innovation and the Earned Brand study. We previewed this study at the Cannes Lions this year and it is the first study of its kind with consumers from across the globe exploring their real feelings about innovation. Today we begin to share the results in earnest around the globe.

One of the main findings we discovered is a simple truth. Successful brands that innovate well aren’t what they used to be, they create human relationships, they have many living qualities – they are the Earned Brands.

It used to be that people listened to brands. Brands could be trusted. However nowadays, people don’t believe brands anymore. They make claims saying today’s product is the best, but in a month’s time a newer, better model comes out. Where’s the trust?

Consumers believe in the promise of innovation but they want to be reassured. We found that it doesn’t matter about geography, demographic or sector… two-thirds of consumers are conflicted, undecided and need to be reassured before they will purchase.

People now ask their friends, use the Internet and their peer-to-peer social networks to get reassurance. They want to talk to others who’ve had the same experience, made the same mistakes, and found the best answer. And these people tell the truth, not just the latest brand story. They’re not selling anything; they have no axe to grind. So they are trusted. And now there are more ways for people to talk to more people than ever before.

We discovered that at the “moment of truth” in the purchase of innovative products and services, people use other people’s experiences as evidence to endorse why they should buy. And people love to share their brand experiences - the good and the bad.

In short, brands won’t talk with people, so people don’t talk with brands. They talk to each other. People tell us that, “I don’t talk about your brand with my friends because I like your brand - I do it because I like my friends."

So, if it’s about people talking to people, what is the role for brands? Our study found that peer conversations are critical and brands win if they embrace and power the peer conversation. People across the globe told us that they trust brands more if they find it easy to review their products and services. And just as importantly they trust the brands that encourage people to review their products and services.

If we want to inspire, first we have to provide reassurance.

What we can all learn from disruptive innovators is a new model of marketing in action. We have to inform, we need to take part of the world we belong to, we need to have a character people can interact with and brands need to make a mark.

That means it’s not just about the messaging, storytelling and choosing the right channels. It’s about how your brand behaves and earns the right to be considered, engaged and shared. It’s about using the right communication approach… listening, shaping and treating groups of people as communities, not just a marketplace. Brands become earned brands by joining the peer-to-peer economy, learning how to fuel, not control and shape the conversation.

Michelle Hutton, global practice chair, Consumer Marketing.