All great brands share three traits : Relevance, Credibility and Differentiation. It’s like a three-legged stool of success. Today we’re going to focus on credibility, or lack thereof.
Many successful businesses are built around commodities or me-too products, with basically no differentiation. And you can build a trendy business on short-term relevance and one-time transactions. But you can’t build a brand that way.
By definition, Brands require loyalty. And without some degree of credibility, you’ll never establish a loyal following.
So you can’t build a brand without credibility.
And once you’ve established credibility in your niche, you have to work really hard to maintain it. Because a lot of little things can whittle away at that leg of the stool, until you fall on your ass.
So let’s look at some things that can kill brand credibility.
While our tolerances vary, everyone is sensitive to marketing bullshit. Consumers are quick to call you out on anything that looks like it, sounds like it, or smells like it.
So here are a few things that trigger my own BS detector. I’m talking about business practices, marketing tactics and common oversights that alert, annoy and turn-off prospective customers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a nose for this stuff.
Brand Credibility Killer #1: A crappy product or service.
The single most important contributor to brand credibility is the product or service you deliver everyday. The work has to speak for itself. Credibility needs to be built in.
Doesn’t matter if you position yourself as a credible “thought leader” in your industry if the product you put out is a stinky, second-rate knock-off.
What you DO carries far more weight than what you SAY.
So if you’re concerned about your credibility in the marketplace, don’t start with a content marketing initiative. Start with a product improvement initiative. Then build a story around that.
Killer #2: Too many “yeah buts.”
This one is closely related to cred killer #1. Anytime I hear the a lot of “yeah buts” from a business owner or salesperson, I know it’s more than just a credibility problem. It’s either an issue with the product or the fundamental business strategy.
You often hear it from enthusiastic entrepreneurs who are trying to raise money to get a half-baked idea off the ground with no go-to-market strategy.
A potential investor says, “Wow, that’s a really crowded category with a lot of big-name brands slugging it out for market share.”
“Yeah, but we’re different.” “Yeah, but they’re too big to capitalize on this opportunity. We’re more nimble.” “Yeah, but our mousetrap is better.”
There’ no way you’re going to establish brand credibility if you’re always making up excuses, playing defense and using “yeah-buts” on a regular basis.
My favorite — from the natural foods industry — is the flavor yeah-but. I’ve heard this one when companies are fighting for retail shelf space or distribution deals.
The buyer diplomatically delivers the bad news: “Your flavor profile just isn’t up to par in this category.”
“Yeah, but our product is chock full of nutrients.” “Yeah, but ours doesn’t have any additives or fillers.” “Yeah, but ours is Keto!”
Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t taste good.
Do whatever you have to do to eliminate all the yeah-butts from your marketing pitch.
Brand credibility killer #3: Gross exaggerations and/or flat out lies.
Nothing triggers the human defense mechanisms faster than blanket statements and bold-faced lies. You’d be amazed how many companies routinely con people.
The industry I’m in — marketing services — is crowded with inexperienced people scrambling to establish brand credibility. Self-proclaimed “experts” will hype up the latest “marketing strategy” and proclaim that “This is it! This is the holy grail of marketing! You’ll never need anything else.”
Then, a few months later, it’s something else entirely.
By chasing the shiny object and short-term sales, they sabotage their own credibility.
One big-name marketing consultant says, flat-out, “there’s no such thing as a visual product.” He contends you don’t have to show what you’re selling, just write about it.
That’s nonsense, of course.
If that were true there would be no fashion industry and every automobile would have the design aesthetic of a Pontiac Aztek.
Other experts stick to the old adage: “A picture’s worth a thousand words” and insist on a visually-driven advertising for every product under the sun.
That’s not the answer either.
The truth is, you need visual, written and oral brand messages. And the marketing mix depends… It depends on your product or service. It depends on your audience. It depends on the medium. It depends on what the competition is doing.
There are infinite variables.
Blanket statements, pat answers and guaranteed systems simply don’t help the brand credibility of any professional services firm. Your credibility, online reputation, and brand authenticity will be better served by simply admitting that you don’t have all the answers.
Confident, credible companies aren’t afraid to say “we don’t have the answer for you yet, but we’ll sure find out.” That means they’re genuinely listening, and they’re working with your best interest at heart.
That’s far better than forcing everyone into the same “my way or the highway” mentality.
Killer #4: Ridiculously lower prices.
I’m not an expert on pricing strategy, but I know a stinker when one wafts across my computer screen.
Every time my firm buys another URL or files another Trademark application we get boatloads of junk mail offering us ways to make that new brand successful.
Like the crowd-sourced “brand logos” for $79.
The sure-fire product launch formula for $29.
“Expertly-written” website content and blog articles for only $12.95
Many of those offers are just too good to be true.
Everybody loves a good bargain, but when I see someone claiming to provide a 1-minute explainer video complete with scriptwriting, animation, editing, sound and talent, for $168, I just laugh.
And it’s not a nice laugh. It’s a scoffing, “no fn’ way” laugh that says you have absolutely no credibility and no chance of making a sale. The ridiculously low price pegs the service as schlocky, unprofessional and downright worthless.
So make sure your pricing is aligned with your competitors, to some degree or another. You gotta be on the same playing field, even if it’s a little uncomfortable at first. Let someone else jump on that race to the bottom.
Brand Credibility Killer #5: The faceless website.
No one wants to do business with a faceless corporation or a shell company. And yet, everyday I run across another ecommerce company that’s selling stuff online with absolutely no hint of who’s behind the curtain.
No “about us” page. No blog. No social media links. No background, history or purpose, other than making a few bucks.
I made the mistake of buying something on a site like that. Once.
Unless you’re a felon selling counterfeit fashion items, you need to have some sort of content up on your site that shows who you are and what your company is all about.
Even if it’s just a side hustle, it needs a face, a brand personality, and a story of some sort. If you think you have nothing to say, be honest about that. Own it. Even a boring story is better than no story at all.
So, if you want to build a credible brand, here’s the plan:
- Build a great product or service that people will want to talk about.
- Eliminate all the “yeah buts” from your marketing language. No excuses.
- Set your prices strategically, with your purpose and position in mind. Don’t race to the bottom.
- Be honest. Stop making blanket statements and bullshit offers.
- Put a face to the company. Make it human. Give it some personality.
Oh, and I almost forgot… do what you say you’re going to do. If you don’t do that, routinely, the rest of it won’t matter.