Brands and believability: Does anyone believe you any more?
Nothing seems true any more. Every fact seems to be a claim cloaked in expedient data. When facts are called into question how can one trust anything? This makes it even tougher for brands since they’re are supposed to emblematic of trust. What’s causing this environment? What can you do?
- “Opinformation” deluge. We face an information deluge everyday. Information we seek actively or receive passively. And a lot of this deluge is opinions masquerading as fact. The sheer volume makes it difficult to process. That means some of it has to be filtered out. So there is a tendency to filter out anything that causes a dissonance with our opinions. Thus reinforcing opinions and prejudices that we already hold. Strengthening our intolerance of contradiction. How can differentiating and disruptive brand messaging get through?
- Proliferation of “Copy & paste”. Stuff that appeals to a particular mindset is simply passed on. Repeated as a reflex and it becomes fact. Whether it is or not. There isn’t enough time, attention span or intellectual rigour to verify. This gets further fuelled by network effects. So how can you be proactive and guard against “copy and paste” misinformation about your brand?
- Big brands with “feet of clay”. Big, well-established brands falter. And then try and evade the issue until it becomes incontrovertible. They may recover but branding itself suffers. Building and delivering on a promise becomes harder. And it leads to an erosion of brand faith. So how do you prevent people’s incredulity from the start?
- Post-truth. It’s the world we live in. Is climate change real or a pseudo-intellectual conspiracy? “Brexiteers promised that, in the words of Boris Johnson, Britain could have its cake and eat it.” (Economist July, 22nd, 2017). That was quite an exaggeration. Was Demonetisation a success or a failure? Allegations are paraded as facts. The most “powerful man in the world” keeps up a steady stream of them. GDP data is debated and often believed to be massaged by countries. It’s not an unreasonable reflex to question every statement. To disbelieve every “fact”. So how do you incontrovertibly prove your brand’s facts?
- Impatient disruptors. The accelerating pace of disruption of established analogue businesses and categories. Categories such as retail, messaging, transactions, banking & finance, hotels, taxi, etc,. Often by new businesses driven by “platforms” and “apps”. Dramatic change can be forced on so-called established categories. It creates a climate of uncertainty. It creates winners and losers. And in this climate of disruption reality becomes debatable. So how do you establish and sustain your brand’s reality?
- Growth of “intra-communities” and “intolerants”. More and more people only hear and speak what they and and their cohorts want to believe. Fuelled by growing and ingraining of inequality. And the creation of disadvantaged groups. The internet further helps to create these “exclusionary communities”. Rather than acting as a true web of ideas, opinions, convictions and debate. Facts provided by the “other” are disbelieved and ridiculed.
- “Freeky” marketplaces. So much of services and products and services today are free. Whole categories have been disrupted and even destroyed by the proliferation free stuff. And many of the things that make a significant impact on our lives are provided free. A lot of our entertainment. Platforms to express and promote ourselves. Searching for things that are important for us. Meeting and engaging with each other. And so many more. All free. Or heavily discounted. So how do you charge for a fair value?
These are massive questions. And there are no quick fix answers. But here are some thought starters.
- “Prove-ables” (data, demonstration, testimonial, traditions). Things that you do that are different. That you can prove. That your stakeholders experience. That they will then talk about. These don’t have to be product or service features. They can be a distinctive way of expressing your brand. They could be an additional delight that you provide. You could create a distinctive platform for your customers to come together. To foster a sense of community. It could be about how imaginative you are when responding to customer feedback. It needs to be relevant, differentiating, sustained and valued.
- Reliability. Being consistent with promises and delivering them. Too many promises (especially divergent ones) create confusion. That breeds incredulity and indifference. There is power in consistent singleminded brand promises reinforced year after year. One that is often undervalued. Many marketers tend to get bored of them far sooner than customers. And tend to treat them as attention grabbing firecrackers. Rather than the bricks of faith that build brand fortresses.
- Own-ability. Of your brand’s “real estate” in people’s minds. Of your your differentiators. And most important — of your core customer base. This is very important because solid brands and businesses are built on it. It costs a lot more to acquire a customer rather than retain them. And managed well, those that you retain are likely to become your advocates. That increases your brands believability, exponentially.
- Focus. To not get distracted with the myriad opportunities of a very dynamic marketplace. There are many opportunities for diversification. But they are also attention diluting traps. The more your brand focuses on its core, the stronger will its credibility be.
- Innovation. That is differentiating, relevant and drives preference. Not gimmicks or tactics. But thoughtful new ways of attracting and retaining your customers.
- Transparency. This lies at the heart of the credibility for a brand. Access to information is unparalleled and growing. Added to this is the amount of information and disinformation flying around. Transparency ensures that your brand is a “true north” of trust. No hidden agendas. No manipulation of product or service standards. Mistakes quickly accepted and rectified. Transparency that cuts across internal and external stakeholders.
Believability is a challenge for brands…
…will help your brand meet that challenge.