It was while watching a recent episode – the one with the fish with the see-through head (yes, really, it exists – Google it) – that I was rudely interrupted! Shock horror – there was my family suggesting that it could all just be filmed in a studio somewhere, using the best offerings that the BBC prop department could throw at it. After all, I was reminded, no one has ever been that far down in the ocean before. They could just be making it all up!
Once I had calmed down (thank goodness for the soothing sounds of dolphins!), it got me wondering about how we decide what we do, and don’t believe. In our online world of ‘fake news’ and the constant chatter of information, how does a brand build trust and make itself credible?
Of course, in the case of Blue Planet, I was just being wound up like a spring! I think I can say with certainty that we all trust the information that is being conveyed implicitly, because it is being shared by a figure of authority. David Attenborough, possibly our greatest naturalist, clearly knows his stuff and can speak with authority. He has the ‘right’, if you will, to share the wonders of the natural world with us because it has been his life’s work – he has been there, done that, got the t-shirt!
On the other hand, were David Attenborough to start telling us about this season’s hottest new fashion trends and whether we’ll all be wearing chunky knits or a marabou trim, we might start to question whether he was best placed to comment!
The same surely applies to brands and how much trust our customers place in the information we share. What they do and don’t want to hear from their favourite brands can differ considerably, and it’s essential to know where the boundaries lie.
So, when it comes to building brand credibility, here are the three essential factors that I think all marketers should bear in mind.
First, act with consistency. Always stay true to your values and be clear about what you stand for. Listen and engage with your customers and be willing to share useful information on request – not only when it suits your marcomms schedule.
Second, act with authority. People do business with people they know, like and trust. No one quite knows who first said it, but this old adage certainly rings true and I would argue this trust comes first and foremost from a brand having the right authority. This means talking about issues that are of relevance to your business and to which you can wholeheartedly commit, but not getting drawn in to ‘buzz word’ conversations that are of the moment.
By all means challenge conventional thinking and be passionate about your values, but ensure that these fit with the purpose of your business. If you are in the business of selling cars, you probably can’t talk with much authority about selling flowers, even if the topic is currently trending on Twitter and you’d quite like to get involved!
In an article for Forbes, Jeff Fromm, president of millennial marketing consultancy FutureCast, said: “(Editorial) authority is the framework for creating relevant conversations with consumers based on topics they are invested in and willing to share. As the foundation of a brand’s overall content strategy, editorial authority allows organisations to build the content pillars that will help them identify what opportunities exist to lead and participate in relevant conversations above and beyond just the product into the culture of consumers.”
In other words, make sure that your customers are willing to engage with you in a particular conversation, and that you have the necessary authority to talk with conviction.
Marketing-savvy customers are quick to see through blatant sales pitches and want brands to be genuine. A report from Stackla found 86 per cent of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support.
Unfortunately though, many companies don’t practice authenticity. Instead, they try to build their brand story around what they think people want to hear. So be authentic in what you talk about. Find a cause or topic that means something to the people you are trying to convert, but also that means something to your business.
This is even more important in today’s consumer culture where content posted by our family or friends may have as much, if not more, influence on our purchasing decisions than the information we consume from brands.
In conclusion, if you want the world to pause for a moment and to listen to your story – just as I sit transfixed by Mr Attenborough and his transparent fish – be true to your brand. Tell your tale, but stick to your guns and know where you’re going… and you’ll be set to take your customers with you.