Is this embedded in your marketing plan?
Belief: Something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion (Source: Oxford Dictionary)
Belief is now central to closing the deal with consumers – to earning their allegiance and engagement. Yet, belief and its sibling trust are often not acknowledged directly in marketing strategies, priorities and especially downstream business behaviors.
We already know consumers are fully in control of initiating any conversation (pull) with brands – while traditional business, marketing and media strategies (push) have been upended by cultural shifts and technological disruption. Trust, relevance, and consumer-centricity have become foundational to growth because they mirror consumer expectations, and thus inform brand preferences.
Of all the business priorities clamoring for attention, it now falls on CMOs to become belief managers – working (harder) to build trust between consumers and brands in a business environment where skepticism rules.
Trust is not necessarily enhanced in…
- Paid media channels – the channel and form carries their own liabilities
- Interruption-style tactics, both online and offline
- Brand assertions of quality, superiority and benefit
Areas where trust is cultivated…
- Earned media – a third party provides independent perspective
- Social media – the consumer’s personal opinion is aired, unedited
- Retail and digital experience – consumers witness it first hand
- Verified quality and transparency – credible experts supply the proof
Today, the marketer’s goal is to transform customers into advocates and ambassadors. But to do so first requires belief. Trust is difficult to secure and challenging to preserve. It springs from a point of view that brand relationships are really like friendships, and so trust must be earned and nurtured through actions not just words.
The bargain for Belief Management is consumers determine you are operating in their best interests, that you are devoted to quality and craftsmanship; that your business operates with real values, a tangible soul and is making an effort to improve the world around us.
There was an era when marketers felt they could control and transact belief by ordering up paid influence through advertising imagery, music, message done in an effort to persuade. Now the artifice of concocted, self-promoting story is running headlong into a reality test. The consumer isn’t listening. They are, however, listening to each other – thus ‘social proof’ is a major part of the belief acid test.
Mining moments of truth
Belief Management might be best expressed as a planned effort to identify and activate opportunities to be completely relevant and believable. How? By curating all consumer touch points, from in-store experience to operations decisions to communications:
- Be candid and honest.
- Be transparent.
- Be open.
- Be helpful.
- Be useful.
- Be generous.
- Be an enabler and supporter.
As you read those statements, they sound oddly familiar – as in the type of human behavior that leads to trust and friendship. The more brand relationships mirror characteristics of human friendships the better this gets.
In the marketing plan, belief must manifest in every step the organization takes to put the consumer at the center of strategy. That said, with consumers increasingly skeptical of corporate motivation, the pressure is even greater for brands and retailers to not only represent themselves as authentic, transparent and trustworthy – but TO BE authentic, transparent and trustworthy.
This is why Higher Purpose is such a vital component of installing belief. To the extent the business is shaped and guided by a legitimate belief system that steps beyond the transaction and profit motive, the deeper meaning and values help facilitate company behaviors that ‘prove’ a customer-first commitment.
It should be noted, there’s also a stark reality. In today’s connected world where ‘anything that can be known will be known,’ brands now live in glass houses. Honesty as an imperative is fueled by the reality of hyper-connectivity and the ability of consumers to rapidly obtain information in real time, confirming or denying, what your company does and does not do.
The Importance of Validation Marketing
At Emergent, we started work awhile back on a new planning model. We call it Validation Marketing. We created this series of steps with one fundamental concept that sits underneath: it is a trust creation engine.
If you accept the idea that belief and trust are vital to getting “permission” for any kind of relationship with those that buy from you, then this recipe for belief creation is for you. It is a virtuous circle. As belief managers we establish the foundation for engagement, working hard to build relevance and deeper meaning with consumers. Why? Because we’ve, in effect, humanized the entire operation and, in doing so, created the basis for trust.
For food retailers, if you follow this thinking all the way to the ground of shopping experience, there’s an opportunity to elevate and differentiate the banner brand. Legacy policies suggest some lack this insight or are unable to translate customer-centricity all the way through to offering food adventures in an environment that is traditionally focused solely on pushing transactions.
The irony: transactions will be better served by working harder on belief management.
Interested in learning more about harnessing the power of brand purpose, developing belief strategies and becoming the beneficiary of consumer trust?
Watch the webinar we hosted with Fresh Squeezed Ideas on the “Power of Purpose.” Moderated by the Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) Mark Baum, the webinar features Emergent’s Bob Wheatley and Fresh Squeezed Ideas’ John McGarr, a premier consumer insights provider.
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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.