Thought leadership’s impact and influence on consumer purchasing decisions

5 July 2020 | 5 min read | News
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

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The payoff from thought leadership

We’re live in an attention economy, and the proverbial noise being created by those seeking to get their voices heard is fast-becoming deafening. Once a piece of thought leadership content cuts through this noise, the outcome for the organisation they represent can be significant – if considered good or great quality, the perception of the business will be positively impacted and this in turn can, and often does, boost the bottom line.

Jane Austen had a novel productivity-enhancing routine. She had a squeaky hinge on the door of her study which she asked to never be oiled so that she had advanced warning of anyone approaching her while she wrote.

Mark Twain wouldn’t even allow any of his family to come anywhere near him when he was at work, instead they would have to blow a horn to garner his attention. William Faulkner simply detached the doorknob to his study so no one could enter from the other side – something I am sure many organisational leaders wish they could do once in a while.

These may be extreme measures, but they illustrate the point that people – by which we mean business leaders and decision makers – value their time as a precious commodity. To get their attention takes something special, and this is the challenge that thought leadership content providers need to overcome.

Professor Byron Sharp of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, the world’s largest centre for research into marketing, said: “The better a consumer knows a brand the better they tend to feel about it – familiarity breeds contentment.” He added, that “the easier the brand is to access in memory, in more buying situations, for more consumers,” the greater the likelihood of said brand becoming the product or service of choice.

He is of course right. Thought leadership content has the ability to build brands and boost revenues. Indeed, a 2019 study undertaken by Edelman and LinkedIn concluded that business leaders can and do “assess an organisation’s calibre of thinking through its content”. This in turn directly influences their subsequent purchasing decisions.

Thought leadership content has the ability to build brands and boost revenues

According to Clearly PR’s study, 40 per cent of business leaders and decision makers say that during the pandemic their perception of an organisation has been ‘positively’ (27 per cent) or ‘negatively’ (13 per cent) changed by the quality of the piece of content it produces. If they feel the former, 70 per cent of them went on to share and discuss the content with colleagues and peers.

As these ‘conversations’ take place, something else begins to happen – buyer appetite takes over. When asked, ‘What action, if any, have you taken after consuming a piece of thought leadership content?’ such as a whitepaper, 1 in 5 (20 per cent) business leaders say they have engaged the organisation with a view to doing business with them.

40% of business leader perceptions of an organisation are shaped by the thought leadership content they produce

This is proof, if needed, that thought leadership can be high in impact and incredibly effective as a vehicle with which to convince and convert new customers, whilst enhancing the perception of an organisation’s brand and its key people.

In 2018, IHS Markit estimated that the average consumer noticed 500 pieces of noise (advertising, social media, PR) per day – 150 of which are created by brands, but 350 are thought leadership pieces generated by individuals. It is bordering on deafening and so the media, like all of us, is eager to sift out that content that is highly valued, persuasive and could present a possible solution to those consuming the content. Better still – all three of these elements.

This emphasis on delivering content that is values- and solutions-based has been one of the core characteristics in how communications need to be done during the coronavirus crisis. This is a trend we anticipate will only escalate as more and more evidence emerges as to the growing unease among consumers of those organisations who fail to contextualise their messaging or back up their claims with empirical evidence.

However, the post pandemic era will see these elements stretched further. Thought leaders will be defined as being such by the impact their content has on those consuming it and their response to what they are being told by the very markets they seek to serve.

This is an extract from the whitepaper: Thought Leadership in the Post-Pandemic Era: Value or Vanity

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