The verdict is in: Generic and dishonest marketing tactics are turning savvy buyers toward companies spreading an individualized message with an honest human element. “People trust other people, not brands,” says Kelsey Meyer, president of Influence & Co. “For this reason, it’s important to be open and transparent in your messaging to show the human side of your business.”
Past practices and generational differences perpetuate the shift.
If consumers’ brains could talk while filtering through the messages of advertisers, you might hear, “I don’t have to listen if I don’t want to, and I don’t believe you anyway.” Advertisers now only have seconds to initiate a relationship.
The average person is assaulted with a barrage of 577 new marketing messages per week. Generation X and millennials have sifted through marketing messaging at this rate every day of their lives. As these generations move into buying power, they are skeptical at best. As a generation X-er, I’ve grown up with remote controls and the Internet, conveniences that have fortified my instinct to ignore and discount advertisements. If the messages I hear 577 times a week don’t apply to me as a person in the moment I’m in, they lack the ability to connect, trust and be human.
An honest marketer:
- Puts others before himself. “People are portals to your content,” says Sarah Hill, chief storyteller with Veterans United Home Loans. “Too many brands mistake their brand for being a logo or their website color, font or design. Your brand equals your people.”
The people Hill is talking about aren’t just those within your company; they’re mainly the people you serve. The most important rule of honest marketing is putting your target market front and center. The message should speak to your audience about what they care about, in a language they understand. “If you know your audience, you should talk like your audience,” Hill says. “If your demographic is using words like ‘bae’ and ‘fleek,’ your social media posts should be in that voice. If you have no idea what those words mean, but your audience does, you might want to spend some time with your target demographic to better understand their swagger.”
- Has no ego and no secrets. Your campaign goals aren’t about padding your bottom line or inflating your ego. Those are the outcomes of a successful campaign. Answer every question you’ve ever heard from your customers with complete transparency and no agenda. This may even mean reviewing competitors’ products or sharing your pricing and salary structure.
“Transparency can mean talking through the struggles your company has had or giving away some of your trade secrets; this helps your audience connect with you on a more human level, which leads to stronger, longer relationships,” Meyer says.
- Makes eye contact. “A Cornell study says eye contact increases brand trust by 16 percent,” Hill says. “If you’re in the customer service business, which what company isn’t, eye contact reduces hostilities. Being human is allowing customers to look in the whites of your eyes. Embrace opportunities to have eye contact with your customers and key influencers.”
As a national company, Veterans United can’t shake everyone’s hand or make eye contact in person, so Sarah embraces new technology such as Google Hangouts and WebRTC to make connections with people from afar.
- Lets others do the talking. Landmark Bank puts this idea into action with its “I’m a Landmark” campaign. “Testimonial advertising is one of the most powerful approaches, but you have to have satisfied customers to do it well,” says Charlie Williamson, senior vice president of Landmark Bank. “The ‘I’m a Landmark’ campaign is all about our customers’ experience. It’s about results.”
Client endorsements of a company are a powerful thing. Spreading its message via satisfied customers has paid the bank back in spades, “It’s done a great job of positioning the Landmark brand in the community,” Williamson says. “Many of us have had the experience of paying for a meal and having the waiter say, ‘I’m a Landmark’ when he saw the debit card.”
- Isn’t a stock photo. People trust real people, not the glowing perfect-skinned stock photo folks. Hill puts it best: “Use real people in your messaging or real employees. Quit hiding behind your logo, and start interacting with your following on a deeper level than a text-based social media post.”