The impact of credible vs sketchy marketing
Highly credible marketing tactics (e.g. third-party certifications) are up to 63% more effective than less credible tactics (e.g. actors playing customers)
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As you walk through a grocery store, two sales reps approach you separately, pitching a dishwashing soap.
The first salesperson excitedly comes up to you and tells you it’s endorsed by Kim Kardashian, who says it keeps her dishes sparkling after every dinner party she throws.
The second salesperson hands you a pamphlet with reviews from customers, who share how the dishwashing soap helped them cut through impossible to clean grease.
Chances are, the second salesperson sounds more credible. You doubt whether Kim Kardashian washes dishes regularly.
And this credibility matters. A lot.
P.S.: Remember when you’re trying to persuade, focus on your three biggest selling points - listing all your benefits beyond that backfires and makes people more skeptical.
People like and trust a product more when it’s marketed with credible tactics
Channels: Marketing strategy | Marketing Communications | Ads | Messaging
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B
Research date: January 2017
Favor marketing tactics that are highly credible (e.g. guarantees, 3rd party certifications, expert endorsements).
Avoid tactics that people may be skeptical of (e.g. limited-time deals for no apparent reason, fake or exaggerated customer opinions)
When people are skeptical of you or your message, they will dislike your brand and product. If your message seems credible, the opposite will happen.
When people consider a marketing tactic that’s trying to persuade them to be credible, they develop a positive view of the product. If they are skeptical of the tactic, they will like the product less than they originally did.
As part of a series of 5 online experiments:
People saw ads for headphones using either highly credible tactics (reviews by industry experts) or low credibility tactics (actors playing customers giving positive reviews)
High credibility tactics made them rate the product 11.7% better (vs not seeing the ad)
Low credibility tactics made them rate the product 15.9% worse (vs not seeing the ad)
After seeing an ad, people were told either that the company was accredited by the Better Business Bureau or that it was denied certification. Those that heard it was denied, rated the company and ad 39.6% less credible
🧠 Why it works
When we realize someone is trying to persuade us (e.g. a company marketing to us), we activate our persuasion knowledge: our response to attempts to convince us.
This makes us start to question things like a company’s motives, its credibility, and who is delivering the information.
Because we know we’re being persuaded, our default is to be skeptical about the information shown, or the source of the information. If we don’t trust the information or its source, we view the attempt to convince us negatively.
But the opposite is also true - if we see a tactic as credible, using our persuasion knowledge leads us to like the company and its product more. We believe the message and trust them.
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The researchers asked people to actively think about how the company or salespeople were trying to convince them. The effect may be weaker when people are less conscious that they’re being persuaded.
The experiments used relatively extreme examples of low credibility arguments (e.g. charging for returns, comparing the product to a jewel). There are often less obvious distinctions between tactics people would consider credible or be skeptical of.
🏢 Companies using this
Almost all companies try to improve or strengthen their messaging by making it as credible as possible.
Functional products, usually bought after research or prior planning, use this extensively:
Expert endorsements are used for products as diverse as dentists recommending toothpaste, makeup artists recommending concealer, and chefs endorsing pans (e.g. “Gordon Ramsay calls HexClad ‘the Rolls-Royce of pans’”)
Third-party accreditations include awards for car manufacturers, airlines, or certifications for product quality, manufacturing, supply chain, and company working environment
Customer reviews are credible when used properly, and are common for most products.
Guarantees to match the lowest prices are particularly popular for electronics and in the travel industry.
Toyota has dedicated pages for each of its models to showcase third-party awards for key selling points such as safety, resale value, and value for money.
⚡ Steps to implement
Try to eliminate tactics and messages that are not credible, and focus on those with high credibility.
Tactics that are generally more credible include:
Guarantees to match competitors’ price
Offering long trial periods or warranties for your products, and the option for a full refund
Expert opinions from professionals in your field
Showcasing third-party awards and certifications
Having your salespeople seem like experts in the category or give customers detailed proposals based on their discussions
Data about customer experiences (e.g. real customer ratings, success rates)
Tactics that are generally less credible include:
🔍 Study type
Beyond Skepticism: Can Accessing Persuasion Knowledge Bolster Credibility? Journal of Consumer Research (January 2017)
Remember: This is a scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.
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