Brand loyalty is being challenged in Canada, according to the first-ever Canadian Influencer Study, a national research project conducted by Northstar Strategic for Veritas Communications. The study found that the vast majority of respondents (74 percent) switched a preferred brand or service in the last year, with an additional 69 per cent looking to make a change in the year ahead.

“Consumers are no longer loyal to just one brand,” says Krista Webster, president of Veritas. “They are trying and attaching themselves to many brands that those who influence them have recommended they try out and fit into specific occasions in their lives.”

While many different industries are vulnerable, some of the most frequently cited by brand switchers include: travel service or hotel (39 percent), automotive brand (38 percent), online/video gaming (38 percent), media/entertainment (37 percent), and alcoholic brands (36 percent).

“Understanding the alchemy of influencer marketing—how to influence the influencers who inspire and motivate consumers—has never been more important,” continued Webster. “It’s an essential tool in attracting a consumer while they’re considering change and inspiring them to choose your brand.”

Findings from the study reinforced that those closest to consumers are key catalysts for change. Family (66 percent), friends (65 percent), and trusted experts (35 percent) are cited as having the greatest influence on our decisions to try a new product or service and motivating us to take action.

In addition, trusted voices such as bloggers continue to grow in influence, with 17 percent of Canadians citing them as having influence over their decision to switch brands. Women and Millennials (18-35) are more likely to be influenced by these sources.

Finally, one-third (39 percent) of Canadian consumers self-identify as influencers in their own right and are eager to share to share news about new products and services with others (44 percent).

“The way in which brands engage with consumers needs to tap into these trusted influencers and the authenticity of their voice, first and foremost,” adds Nicola Moore, chief strategist at Veritas. “Working with influencers, we have the opportunity to co-create and tell stories based on life’s truths versus pushing marketing slogans – in other words, distilling the conversation into one that really matters.”

More than half of respondents (58 percent) admit to spending a lot of time researching products, and 68 percent sought out advice from others prior to making a purchase. On average, respondents consulted three sources of information before making their decision to switch.

While conversations with family or friends (62 percent) tops the list of most trusted channels for sourcing information about a product or service, the gap between traditional media and new media is closing. The next most-used channels for finding information about a new product or service include: traditional media (39 percent), online media (32 percent), or advertising from a company or brand (29 percent).

In addition, channels where friends, family or trusted experts share their opinion or endorsement are on the rise, including social networks (31 percent) and online communities (25 percent).