Who holds sway over consumers' opinions?


If ever you’ve been hugely frustrated by misinformation swirling around about how food is grown, you’ve probably also wondered what can be done about it. While farmers have been encouraged to “tell their stories,” many feel that, as an industry, the information shared is not being picked up.

That is partially true, as the latest research on public trust of Canada’s food system suggests that more than half of Canadians say they’re “unsure” about the direction of Canada’s food system. (Read more on that, here.)

At the recent Public Trust Summit, put on by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, many attendees recognize the unmet need of reaching customers and sharing credible information. But, it turns out, what information our customers deem as credible depends on several factors, including their own unique perspective and personality type.

Ashley Bruner, research coordinator for the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, presented the findings of a recent, two-year study done across Canada and the U.S that identified how individuals value different information, and what impact “social authorities” have on their decision making process.

The science used in the study is called digital ethnography, and it specifically studies how humans deem information credible online, and who we are most likely to believe or seek out for information.

Bruner explains (listen to the audio below) that there are five types of social authorities: the challenger, investigator, institutionalist, follower, and competitor, each with their own motivations and critiques of information sources.

As an industry, agriculture is likely prudent to focus on the investigator, as they represent about 20% of the population, but hold sway over nearly 40%, she says. What this looks like in practice is not yet determined, but CCFI shares that, as an industry, focusingĀ  on continuous improvement, transparency, and acknowledging that things are never perfect speaks to the investigators of the world.

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