Advertising Creates Trust in Your Customers. Really!

January 18, 2018
Peter McEllhenney

As you have probably noticed, I do not oversell the miraculous benefits of marketing. Marketing does deliver results. It’s just that most of the time those results come from having a good marketing plan, a good marketing budget to pay for the plan, and patience.

So you might be surprised to hear me say that advertising can increase trust in your business. Because that sounds like a miraculous benefit. But this isn’t a miracle. It’s evolution.

People have evolved to instinctively trust things they know and distrust things they don’t. This makes sense. A berry we’ve eaten before is a berry we know is safe to eat. An animal we’ve seen before is an animal we know hasn’t eaten us (yet). Young children are usually afraid of people they don’t know. Adults are often instinctively wary of strangers as well.

In business, I think of this instinct as the “never heard of it” problem. For example, when you name your favorite restaurant and a person immediately replies “never heard of it” – this is a negative reaction and the person will less readily accept what you say about the restaurant. The person instinctively trusts the name less because they don’t know it.

The opposite is also true. When the person replies, “oh yes, I’ve heard of that restaurant” – this is a positive reaction and the person will more readily accept what you say.

Both of these reactions are irrational of course. But the fact they are irrational is irrelevant. Like love, this familiarity with the name of the restaurant – call it “name recognition” or “brand recognition” – influences people’s perceptions and finally their decisions, whether or not that influence makes any rational sense. Further, most of the time people are not even aware they are having these reactions. They simply have them.

This is why businesses are willing to spend money, often a lot of money, on advertising purely to make people recognize their name.  And they can do this by simply repeating their name over and over until you remember it. (Radio ads are particularly famous for this repetition.)

Now “brand” advertising or “image” advertising have some familiar problems. One problem with name recognition advertising is that it is hard to track and measure results. This is particularly true for small businesses that don’t have the money to do market research surveys before and after campaigns to measure their impact.

Another problem is that you really can’t spend just a little bit of money on this kind of advertising and expect to increase your business. You have to do it steadily over a good period of time to have an impact. Let me give you an example.

A friend asks you for a restaurant recommendation and you name your favorite restaurant. If by pure general advertising and simple repetition, that friend recognizes the name – then their trust of the recommendation is higher. And they will be more likely to eat there.

Your ads have to reach enough people over a long enough period of time that the trust and comfort of recognizing your name makes a meaningful difference to your business.  That’s because this kind of advertising is imprecise. Running a small ad once in your neighborhood newsletter ain’t gonna do the trick.

But if enough people see your ads enough times, that instinctive trust people have of things they know begins to work for you. Really. Trust me!

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