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The Power of 'New' vs. the Strength of 'Trust' in Consumer Preferences

We’ve heard it said that the word “new” is the most powerful word in the marketing vocabulary. People love the promise of something new. Surely new means better.

Apparently we don’t all think the same or at least we don’t always think the same about certain products. In a study by Fabien Picot of TBS Business School Barcelona, he and fellow researchers described how they showed people two logos for a fictitious chocolate company. One of the logos had an old fashioned font and a black and white photo of a factory; the other featured a more modern font and a picture of a modern building. It seemed that participants were willing to pay more for the old fashioned brand than for the new one.

In another study by Minju Han of Singapore Management University, people were told about a cosmetics company. One of the groups was told the company had been founded in 1917 and another that it was established in 2017. Each group then tested two hand creams, one supposedly made by the early founded company and the other by the new company. The cream was the same and yet people from both groups were convinced that the cream, said to be from the long established company, was the best.

“New” is a powerful word but so is “trust”. Many consumers prefer established products from brands they know due to their reputation for quality, reliability, and familiarity. These are products they perceive to be tried-and-tested, with a track record of delivering consistent performance over time.

There's also the element of risk perception. Some people perceive new products as risky investments, fearing potential flaws or unproven performance, while others view them as exciting opportunities for advancement and improvement.

Mitigating risk and perceiving trust aren’t always important.  Some people are drawn to new products because of their novelty and the promise of innovation. They may believe that new products incorporate the latest technology or design trends, offering improved features or functionality compared to older ones. There is always a queue for the latest version of Apple’s iPhone.

The nature of the product itself can influence consumer preferences. For example, in industries where technology evolves rapidly, such as electronics or software, there might be a stronger inclination toward new products. Conversely, in industries where reliability and tradition are valued, such as certain luxury goods or heritage brands, established products may hold more appeal.

Individual experiences with both new and established products greatly influence perceptions. Positive experiences with a new product can lead to a preference for innovation, while negative experiences can reinforce the appeal of established brands known for reliability.

What does this mean to us as marketers? The decision to launch and promote new products versus relying on established ones depends on various factors, including market conditions, consumer preferences, brand strategy, and your organisation's resources and capabilities. It is worth bearing in mind the following considerations:

  • Assess the current market landscape.  Look at the competition, consumer trends, and demand for innovation. If you are in a rapidly evolving industry or market you should consider launching new products to stay ahead of the curve.

  • Consider your brand's positioning and reputation. If your brand is known for innovation, then staying at the forefront of industry trends and launching new products will reinforce this image. Conversely, if your brand is established and trusted for reliability, promoting existing products may be more effective.

  • Evaluate your company’s resources. Launching new products requires significant investment in research, development, and marketing. If your resources are limited you may be better focusing on existing products and strengthening their market position than launching new ones.

  • Assess the risks associated of launching new products.  It is worthwhile conducting market research to determine the acceptance of existing products. You may think that your customers are begging you for new products when, in fact, they like what they are getting and have concerns about you making changes.

  • Understand the diverse needs and preferences of different customer segments. As always in marketing we know that not everyone is the same. Some people value innovation and novelty, while others prioritise reliability and consistency. You need to tailor product offerings and marketing strategies to meet the specific needs of each segment.

Ultimately, there's no one-size-fits-all answer, and the optimal approach will vary depending on the circumstances of each company and market. Successful marketers strike a balance between innovation and stability, leveraging a combination of new and established products to drive growth and maintain relevance in the marketplace.


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