Is a low credibility score losing you business?

Kerry Katona

In a previous post in this series I looked at the importance of trust in marketing, which leads us nicely to the related subject of credibility. Broadly speaking we can state the relationship between the two in this neat formula: Credibility = trustworthiness + expertise. But fear not, this isn't a maths lesson. Our focus is on what affects a business's credibility score, and the damage that a low one can do.

Trustworthiness

So there are two factors at play: trustworthiness and expertise. In the post mentioned above I have already discussed the different kinds of trust that a business can earn (both emotional and cognitive), and outlined the cues that can evoke in your customers the feeling that they can do business with you. In an impersonal digital marketplace, it can be especially difficult to win buyers' trust. Here is a roundup of some tips for boosting your trustworthiness:

  • Make sure your website has a swish design and is user-friendly, with coherent branding.
  • Link to other reputable websites on which you've featured and highlight any awards and endorsements you may have.
  • Show off your case studies, media coverage and testimonials - and use photos, or ideally videos, of the people endorsing you.
  • Collaborate with other businesses in your industry.
  • Write for industry publications to display thought leadership.
  • Attain the URL relevant to your company sector – .org, .gov, .edu or .ac etc.
  • Avoid linking to other businesses you have vested interests in without full disclosure.

Expertise

So let's concentrate on the second factor, expertise. It's something you either have or you don't, and if you're claiming to offer the best product on the market then you'd better have the know-how to back up your argument. But your knowledge and experience is worth little if you don't communicate it effectively, so your company blog, case studies and thought leadership articles should ooze expertise.

Getting outside help

Then there's the issue of endorsements, which can be used to lend gravitas to a brand or set the mood for a campaign by enlisting outside help. Marketers have been using expert, celebrity and Regular Joe endorsements for years, with differing results. Studies have shown that there are times when expert endorsements improve the perceived credibility of a brand or product (for example, in the case of "credence" goods such as vitamin pills); in others, testimonials from "normal" customers hold more sway (we trust regular customers – our peers – when they endorse, for example, a bungee jumping service and other experiential items).

Here are a few examples of brands that have employed credibility-boosting endorsement tactics with varying degrees of success:

The Kardashian Kard

When the Kardashian sisters put their stamp on a pre-paid debit card, things were never likely to go well. The partnership with Mobile Resource Card won the wrong kind of attention from the press and the legal establishment alike, following concern over extortionate rates. When the sisters jumped ship, the company sued them for some $75 million, so all in all I'd say this was an endorsement too far. The negative effect of bad endorsements can, of course, go both ways, effecting both the endorser and endorsee. The Kardashians came out of this one with an even worse reputation for money management, and you just have to look at other odd couples such as Jonny Rotten and Country Life butter to see how selling your endorsement can as easily be construed as selling out.

"That's why mums go to Iceland"

Iceland is an interesting example, as viewers of the hilarious BBC documentary, Iceland Foods: Life in the Freezer Cabinet, will know. Kerry Katona was the face of Iceland for four years, and the advertising campaign was successful in increasing sales. But in the long run the association may have proved too successful, linking Iceland with a certain demographic of shopper and alienating another - one more at home in Waitrose or Marks and Spencer's. Iceland is well aware that the British class system is alive and kicking in the groceries market - the company makes no bones about the fact that it uses this to its advantage. But, as Kerry Katona's negative press illustrates, the message portrayed by endorsements can develop (for better or worse) even after the campaign has been terminated. Now, however, Iceland is attempting to defy consumers' stereotyping and tap into a new, more affluent market by positioning itself as a brand that shoppers from all backgrounds can trust.

The Guardian and Observer Weekend™

In a bid to establish their respective Saturday and Sunday editions as the ultimate in weekend newspapers, the Guardian and Observer launched a campaign that showed just how well they "owned" the weekend. Advertising agency BBH created a great tongue-in-cheek blockbuster ad series. In introducing the campaign and its premise, they enlisted the help of Hugh Grant. Though full of parody and mock melodrama, the result is a seriously impressive piece of work that benefits from the Grant endorsement.

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