“A brand you can trust” (or a “company” or a “name”) is the biggest cliché in marketing, simply because all brands are about trust. Using a tagline like this for a brand comes dangerously close to the classic sales line of, “Trust me!” Which, of course, usually leads to exactly the opposite reaction.
All successful, sustained brands develop a strong sense of trust with their customer base, whether they are selling candy or computers, sandwiches or smart phones. People return to buy again from brands they trust and, conversely, will shun a brand that breaks that trust or never really establishes it in the first place.
Building trust in a brand is a long-term process, and one that is being made harder by a digital world full of fake articles that actually hawk fly-by-night products, recurring security breaches that expose personal data and even click farms that appear to show far more engagement from digital advertising than is actually happening.
In the face of this onslaught of false content and loss of privacy, consumers are becoming more vigilant and more skeptical of even the most genuine claims of product performance and effects. “Marketing Week” reported in June that a study by “Trinity Mirror” showed that “37% of consumers trust brands less than they used to compared to only 7% who trust brands more than they used to. Some 43% of respondents trust advertising less than they used to, compared to only 8% who trust it more than before.”
While people have always been skeptical of advertising, that distrust is growing and affecting brands along with it. Brand managers and their companies are looking for ways to react to growing consumer unrest, and one solution to surviving in a world of fakery is pretty simple: Be real.
One way is to use real people to tell real stories about your brand. Elizabeth Rutledge, executive vice president, global advertising and brand management at American Express, talked about the value of word-of-mouth in a recent article in “AdWeek,” “It’s the best way for us to show our brand authentically through other customers who have stories to share about the experience they’ve had,” Rutledge said. “That’s better than any ad in terms of a reference point.”
Look for more brands to do what Chevrolet has been doing for the last three years with a series of ads that puts real people in front of their latest models and gets their authentic reactions. During the spots, the host makes numerous superlative claims about quality and awards, all of which arguably gain a certain amount of veracity from having non-actors participate as real, would-be buyers.
Testimonials have always had a place in the building and marketing of brands. But in a world of increasing cynical customers, using the real McCoy will likely become even more important. Brand managers would be wise to think twice about buying a $5 stock photo that people have seen a dozen times for various products and instead consider using an actual customer, even if it’s less expedient and more expensive. The reward may be a relationship with your customers that makes trust in your brand more powerful. For real.