According to Michael Maslansky and the co-authors of The Language of Trust, American consumers have entered a new era of distrust of our institutions. They call it the post-trust era or PTE.
With the collapse of our economy in 2008, we witnessed bankers asking our government to bail them out from the consequences of their errors in judgment. We witnessed corporate executives from the major car manufacturers flying to Washington D.C. in their private jets also asking our government to bail them out. We saw our leaders exposed as incompetent or worse, cheats and liars.
Marketing teacher Dan Kennedy uses the analogy that the consumer sees himself or herself as Charlie Brown facing Lucy, who has pulled away the football again and again. So advertisers and companies shouldn’t be surprised when half of customers don’t care about what they say and the other half don’t believe it.
The authors explain how companies should communicate with consumers, but emphasize that what they do is even more important. Your message is destroyed if you say one thing and do something else.
A key point is that companies too often have told things from the company’s viewpoint. There has been too much "our" and "we" and not enough "you" and "your." When there is a problem instigated by a company, consumers don’t want to hear, "This is why what we did was justified." They want to hear, "We’re sorry, we screwed up. Here’s how we’re going to make it right."
In many cases, how you say the same thing can make a big difference. For example, here are two statements:
- "This process is automatic, but not required. It’s voluntary. If you don’t want to be enrolled or you don’t like any of the choices we made, you can always opt-down to a lower level or opt-out."
- "We believe we have a responsibility to provide you with information and guidance about the most effective strategies for saving and investing to achieve your retirement goals."
The first statement resonated with 40% of the population. The second resonated with 15%. They are both talking about the same program.
To better understand how to phrase communications for a positive consumer response and to avoid turning consumers off with your communications, study The Language of Trust.
Buy it on Amazon: The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics.
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