Tag Archive for: digital communication

Are you harnessing the full potential of digital PR to boost your cannabis company’s brand visibility and market reach? In the fast-evolving cannabis industry, where regulatory landscapes and market dynamics shift continuously, effective digital PR is more than a strategy—it’s a necessity. At Avaans Media, a cannabis PR firm, our focus is on tailoring advanced digital PR strategies specifically for cannabis companies like yours, helping you navigate the complexities of the market.

So, without further ado, read on as we discuss the intricacies of digital PR in the current market, how it uniquely applies to the cannabis industry, and provide 20 specialized tips that every cannabis company can integrate into its strategy to optimize its digital presence and grow its business.

But First, What is Digital PR?

First and foremost, digital PR involves online strategies to manage a brand’s presence and increase its visibility effectively. It extends beyond traditional PR by incorporating digital tools and platforms like social media, SEO, blogs, and press releases (aka PR). These tools significantly enhance engagement and help a brand/company reach its target audience more effectively and efficiently. Today’s cannabis companies can’t afford to ignore these digital realities.

How is Digital PR Different for Cannabis Companies?

For cannabis companies, digital PR isn’t just about spreading the word; it’s about carefully crafting messages that resonate within a strict regulatory framework. Cannabis PR firms with experience like ours understand these critical nuances. We develop compliant, impactful communications that respect legal boundaries while effectively and strategically conveying your brand’s unique message.

Market History

The cannabis industry has undergone an exceptional transformation over the last decade. Initially marred by stigma and heavy restrictions, the landscape has seen progressive legalization and increased public acceptance. This evolution necessitates a sophisticated approach to digital PR, which top cannabis PR firms provide by staying ahead of current market trends and regulatory changes.

20 Digital PR Tips for Cannabis Companies

In an industry as dynamic and regulated as cannabis, effective digital PR strategies are crucial for success. In this section, we’ll uncover twenty essential tips tailored for cannabis companies seeking to elevate their digital presence. If applied professionally, these tips can help your brand navigate the complexities of digital communication within a regulated environment, ensuring you connect meaningfully with your audience while adhering to compliance standards.

Tip #1: Define Your Brand Voice

A well-defined brand voice communicates your values and resonates with your target audience, fostering a powerful brand identity. It should reflect your company’s personality and differentiate you from competitors. Consistency in this voice across all your content helps build recognition and trust among consumers, which is pivotal in converting them into loyal customers and maintaining a long-term relationship. Establishing a unique voice is foundational to all other digital PR efforts.

Tip #2: Optimize for SEO

No list of digital PR for cannabis companies would be complete without mentioning Search Engine Optimization. SEO enhances your website’s visibility on search engines, making it easy for prospective customers to find you. Start by researching keywords relevant to your target market’s search habits. Incorporate these keywords naturally into high-quality content, meta descriptions, and image tags. Regularly updating your website (content and other aspects) and ensuring it is technically sound improves rankings and steers more organic traffic to your site.

Tip #3: Create Quality Content

Quality content is essential in positioning your cannabis company as an industry thought leader. A core digital PR tip for cannabis companies includes developing content that answers all the frequently asked questions, provides valuable insights, and educates your audience about the cannabis industry. This content can include detailed blog posts, engaging infographics, and informative videos. Such content attracts and retains consumer interest, boosting your site’s SEO by increasing dwell time and significantly reducing bounce rates.

Tip #4: Maximize Social Media

Social media is a very powerful tool for establishing community and brand loyalty in the cannabis industry. Use these social platforms to share content that engages and educates your audience while promoting your products within compliance. Each platform has strengths and audience demographics, so tailor your content accordingly. Regular interaction and responsive communication on these platforms foster a strong community and can boost your brand’s visibility and engagement rates.

Tip #5: Partner with Influencers

Influencer partnerships can extend your reach within the cannabis community. Choose influencers in your specified area who align with your cannabis brand’s values and have a genuine connection with their social media followers. These collaborations should feel authentic and provide value to the influencer’s audience, often leading to increased brand credibility and a wider customer base. Effective partnerships can drive targeted traffic to your platforms and increase brand recognition.

Tip #6: Monitor Brand Reputation

Monitoring what is said about your brand online is vital for maintaining a good reputation in the market. Use advanced social listening tools to diligently track mentions across various platforms and respond to feedback promptly to manage perceptions effectively. Addressing negative feedback from any customer can effectively prevent potential damage to your brand’s reputation, while positive engagement can foster loyalty and actively encourage robust word-of-mouth marketing.

Tip #7: Analyze Performance Data

Data analysis is vital to understanding the effectiveness of your digital PR strategies. Use advanced analytics tools to track user engagement, website traffic, and campaign performance quickly. This performance data provides crucial insights into what resonates with your audience and doesn’t, allowing you to make informed decisions to optimize future social media campaigns. Continuous analysis helps fine-tune your strategies for consistently better results over time.

Tip #8: Focus on Compliance

Ensuring that all your digital content is strictly compliant with current cannabis laws and regulations is absolutely crucial. This measure includes adhering to stringent advertising restrictions and detailed content guidelines specific to the industry. Compliance prevents potential legal complications and builds substantial trust with your audience and stakeholders, reinforcing your brand’s unwavering commitment to legality and ethics in a highly scrutinized industry, cannabis.

Tip #9: Engage Through Email Marketing

Email marketing remains one of the most effective digital marketing strategies. Build a robust subscription list and send regular, well-crafted newsletters informing your audience about new products, company news, and exclusive special offers. Personalize emails to increase engagement and ensure your content provides value to keep subscribers interested. This direct line of communication helps cultivate long-term relationships with your customers.

Tip #10: Educate Your Audience

Education is particularly important in the cannabis industry due to the varying levels of consumer knowledge and ongoing regulatory changes. Use your digital platforms to share accurate, research-based information about the benefits and safe usage of cannabis products. Educating your target audience positions your brand as a trustworthy source and actively encourages informed consumer decisions, ultimately fostering a safer and more knowledgeable community.

Tip #11: Support Community Initiatives

Engaging with community initiatives, including cannabis tradeshows and expos can significantly enhance your brand’s reputation and demonstrate your dedication to social responsibility. To strengthen local ties and boost your brand’s visibility and credibility, participate in or sponsor events that align with your company’s values and contribute positively to the community. Local community support is essential for building a positive brand image in a market as community-focused as cannabis.

Tip #12: Prepare for Crises

Crisis management is critical in the volatile cannabis market. Start by developing a comprehensive digital crisis management plan that includes some strategies for quick and effective communication across all your digital platforms. Be prepared to swiftly address misinformation and any emerging issues to maintain your brand’s integrity. A well-prepared response can significantly alleviate the impact of a crisis, preserving customer trust and ensuring your brand’s long-term viability.

Tip #13: Innovate with Interactive Content

Interactive content such as polls, live Q&A sessions, and quizzes can increase audience engagement. These interactive tools actively invite participation and can provide precious insights into consumer preferences and behaviors. Additionally, interactive content makes your digital presence more dynamic and enjoyable, encouraging users to interact more with your brand. This enhanced engagement can assist in increased customer loyalty and higher sales conversions.

Tip #14: Showcase Success Stories

Sharing customer testimonials and success stories can greatly enhance your brand’s credibility. These real-life examples vividly show potential customers the tangible benefits of your products, making your brand more relatable and inherently trustworthy. Highlight these impactful stories prominently on your website and consistently across all social media platforms to attract new customers and reassure existing ones of your unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction and quality.

Tip #15: Prioritize Accessibility

Ensure that all your digital content is accessible to people with disabilities. This step includes using alt text for images, providing video subtitles, and ensuring website compatibility with screen readers. Additionally, consider accessible navigation menus and keyboard-friendly site design. Making your digital content accessible widens your audience reach and demonstrates inclusivity, vital for building a brand that values all community members and fosters a more inclusive environment.

Tip #16: Optimize for Mobile

With the increasing use of smartphones for internet access, your digital content must be optimized for mobile devices, especially if you’re a cannabis retailer, because the world of digital PR tips for cannabis companies is becoming more vital for survival. Ensure your emails and website are mobile-friendly with a responsive design that can adapt smoothly to different screen sizes. Mobile optimization improves user experience like no other. It increases the likelihood of engaging potential customers who access information on the go, thereby significantly boosting your site’s traffic and engagement levels.

Tip #17: Build Strategic Alliances

Forming strategic alliances with other companies and organizations in the cannabis industry can extend your reach and resources. These partnerships can leverage synergies and offer co-marketing opportunities, allowing for shared resources and joint promotional efforts. Effective collaborations can also enhance your brand’s reputation by association, provide access to new markets, and introduce your products to diverse customer segments, potentially opening doors to global markets.

Tip #18: Maintain Visual Consistency

Visual consistency across all your digital channels reinforces your brand identity and aids in brand recognition. It includes using consistent logos, color schemes, and font styles. A unified visual approach makes your brand appear more professional and trustworthy, which is crucial in a market where consumer trust can influence purchasing decisions. Such uniformity ensures a seamless user experience, helping to discern your brand from competitors in a crowded marketplace.

Tip #19: Encourage Customer Feedback

Actively soliciting and incorporating customer feedback is essential for continuous improvement and enhanced customer satisfaction. Use surveys, comment sections, and social media platforms to gather valuable insights. Responding to feedback shows that your company values customer input and is committed to evolving based on specific needs. This proactive practice not only improves cannabis products and services but also significantly strengthens customer relationships for the better.

Tip #20: Utilize Advanced Tools

Employing advanced digital tools like AI for content personalization and customer segmentation can enhance your marketing efforts. These technologies allow for more targeted communications, which can significantly grow the effectiveness of your campaigns. By delivering personalized content that resonates more deeply with individuals, you improve engagement rates and drive higher conversion rates, fostering a loyal customer base and facilitating tailored marketing strategies.

To conclude, in the highly competitive cannabis industry, effective digital PR transcends mere necessity—it becomes a crucial strategic advantage. By implementing these 20 tips, your cannabis company will enhance its digital presence and skillfully navigate the intricate regulatory landscape. This approach ensures sustained long-term success and growth within this burgeoning market, positioning your brand as a leader in a rapidly evolving cannabis industry.

Partner with Avaans Media

Are you ready to elevate your cannabis company with bespoke digital PR strategies? Don’t worry; Avaans Media is here to help. As a top-rated PR agency, we bring a decade of proficiency and a commitment to excellence with our 100% executive-level team. Let us help you make your mark in the cannabis industry. Connect with us today to learn more about our tailored PR solutions.

We’re living in a post-ChatGPT world. One place where we’re seeing a lot of discussion is around content. So what does AI mean for content marketing and content creators? The discussions I’m having with colleagues and clients are two-fold. First, what will AI mean for owned content like blogs? And second, how do search engines using AI affect SEO? In short, AI won’t drive out innovative ideas, or interesting content, and it’s certainly not currently an SEO threat to quality content.

3.5.2024 Update

Once again, Google’s Core update isn’t explicitly banning AI content, in fact, Google seems to be going out of their way to NOT ban AI content. But it is clarifying the signals that they consider spammy in the latest update. Specifically: “Scaled Content Abuse.” Google saying that websites posting hundreds of articles a day aren’t contributing anything to the conversation. Google doesn’t care HOW you create valuable content, it cares that there IS valuable content. It isn’t “just” AI content their flagging, either. Here’s their update:

  • Using generative AI tools or other similar tools to generate many pages without adding value for users
  • Scraping feeds, search results, or other content to generate many pages (including through automated transformations like synonymizing, translating, or other obfuscation techniques), where little value is provided to users
  • Stitching or combining content from different web pages without adding value
  • Creating multiple sites with the intent of hiding the scaled nature of the content
  • Creating many pages where the content makes little or no sense to a reader but contains search keywords

Stay Focused on Quality Content

From an SEO and digital PR perspective, it’s not as straightforward as “Google is penalizing AI content” because there’s no signal that they are explicitly targeting AI content. But a lot of ChatGPT content is iterative or not very insightful and, sometimes, flat-out false.

I’ve been testing searches out on Bing, Google, and other AI search engines, and my observations are consistent with Google’s long-touted philosophy for content that drives dividends. Google has long said that it will prioritize content that is “helpful, reliable, and people-first.

Google knows the internet needs no more “stuff,” and it wants people searching to find genuinely helpful content. If you’re a reader and you’ve tested out ChatGPT content, you’ve probably noticed it’s not all that insightful. That’s because, for all the talk of a sentient AI, it is not actually sentient. My Dad, who worked at IBM, used to say “junk in, junk out” about computers, which is so true about AI. And since there is a lot of junk content, there will always be a lot of junk AI content. The world’s greatest thinkers aren’t teaching AI, because there aren’t enough of them to teach AI at the scale currently necessary. Most AI-generated content would not (now) be categorized as quality. Could that change? Sure.

“I use it, but I edit it,” 

Well, that will undoubtedly help. Be sure to fact-check. Until about a year ago, I was testing long-form writing with a well-known AI content engine. I once had a blog post with a completely made-up source, including an author, a book, and a quote. It was fascinating but fake. Plus, my human content team generates better content that performs way better in search, so using AI didn’t pay off in my case, even for SEO content.

I know lots of people using ChatGPT for their blog posts. I can only imagine the rate at which this stuff is going up on the internet. But great content, like the world’s greatest thinkers, is rare, and there’s only room in every search for a #1 position – and it’s extremely unlikely that AI-generated content will surpass everything else out there anytime soon. In short, you CAN use ChatGPT to write a blog post, but I won’t recommend it.

3.7.2024 Update: 

Google’s Core Update on March 5, 2024 makes it abundantly clear that Google wants person-first “helpful” content. And it’s evaluating content for quality:

  • Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • If someone researched the site producing the content, would they come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
  • Is this content written or reviewed by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Does the content have any easily-verified factual errors?

AI-Generated Content for Thought Leadership

The more technical or expert content, the less likely these generative engines can create value.

Plus, the entire point of creating thought leadership content is to provide your insights – and that’s something ChatGPT can’t do. Only you can provide your ideas and perspectives. As a leader, you’ve spent so much time becoming an expert; why would you threaten that reputation to save 30 minutes?

Repeatedly, automation has let me down. That’s why the content on this site with my name is written by me. The only person who writes my content is me. Now, do I think executive ghostwriters are valuable? You bet I do, but ghostwriters take the time to learn an executive’s voice, and adhere to the point of view, so that’s very different from using AI to create a “thought leadership” piece. But regarding my reputation, there is a clear delineation on this blog of my content and content written by my (human) content team, and that’s because, as an entrepreneur, my reputation is valuable, and I bet yours is too.

Is creating quality content difficult? Yes. Does quality content pay off? Yes. I believe actual thought leadership content, like this article, will increase in value, while ChatGPT content will decrease in value. So since creating content is an investment, why not invest in improving returns?

Where Generative AI is Useful for Content

Is AI-generated content useless? No. But it’s essential to consider the context.

ChatGPT and content platforms like Jasper can be most helpful in triggering ideas. ChatGPT is a pretty good communicator and excellent for creating outlines. I recently used ChatGPT to create a book outline, which triggered some ideas. Ultimately, I’ll probably view those suggestions much like my first drafts – part of the process but distanced from the result.

I also think ChatGPT can be useful in creating questions that create many results. Testing your questions on ChatGPT will give you a sense of the content that’s out there on the web and the depth of that content and help you decide if you want to add to that body of thought or not.

In conclusion

Like a calculator, or Excel, using AI will make creating content smoother and faster, but it won’t be a substitute for creativity or critical thinking for content. If you’re writing to improve your reputation, increase awareness, or improve SEO, there isn’t much reason to use ChatGPT to create content right now.

Building trust with PR is what tomorrow’s leading companies are doing today. Trust is a truly earned currency. There’s no fast tracking it and it’s easier to gain than it is to get back, so trust is a cherished and worthy asset for any company with ambitions. It’s essential for companies to build trust with key constituencies, whether those be consumers, investors, or other community stakeholders. After all, it’s virtually impossible to succeed if your audience can’t trust your company. And yet, it’s getting harder and harder for companies to win over skeptical consumers and communities.

Many factors have contributed to this volatile, and sometimes outright hostile, business environment. We’re all more engaged with the news and the world than ever before, which means we are more aware of what goes on “behind the curtain” at major companies.

Social media platforms are unethically harvesting and profiting from their users’ data. Major corporations are coming under the microscope for how they treat their employees. Income inequality has become a hot-button political issue. The environment is being irreparably damaged by companies exploiting it for a profit with little thought to how it will affect us and future generations.

Faced with innumerable examples of corporate greed and misconduct, it’s no wonder that the public’s trust in the business community has crashed. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer found that only 56 percent of people trust the business community to do the right thing. When nearly half of the marketplace harbors fundamental misgivings about businesses’ willingness to behave ethically, companies that want to earn consumers’ trust have their work cut out for them.

The world of business is hardly alone in coming under greater scrutiny from the public. Many people have grown increasingly distrustful of government entities, nonprofits, the news media, and other institutions. In the minds of a skeptical public, these organizations are in business for themselves, not their community or the world at large. That same 2019 report from Edelman found that only 57 percent of the public trusts NGOs to do the right thing, and the figure is even lower for the news media at 47 percent. A 2019 study from the Pew Research Center found that only 14 percent of Americans trust the government to do the right thing “most of the time.”

 

How to Use PR to Earn the Trust of Your Consumers, Investors & Stakeholders

So, what can companies do to earn the trust of an increasingly skeptical public? The study suggests the right way to do it. The lone bright spot for companies is that while much of the public doesn’t trust the business community as a whole, they tend to trust their own employers. The 2019 Edelman report found that 75 percent of people generally trust their employer to do what’s right. This data suggests that when people get a chance to know a company better, they can be convinced to give that company the benefit of the doubt.

Edelman’s research found that 58 percent of employees count on their employers to be reliable sources of information about social and political issues. Furthermore, 67 percent of employees expect their employers to join them in taking a stand on issues they care about. Employees also have high expectations of CEOs and other executives, with 71 percent believing their CEO should respond to social and political challenges. The general public agrees, with 76 percent saying that CEOs should directly address societal issues instead of waiting for governments to respond.

These data points offer a roadmap for brands looking to increase trust with their customers. Consumers are looking for businesses to drop their old ways of doing things and embrace the challenge of change. Brands that rise to meet this challenge can tap into the zeitgeist and build a better, healthier relationship with their customers.

One of the most effective tools to building trust with the public is a well-crafted public relations campaign. Why PR for trust building instead of advertising or marketing? It all comes back to the trust factor. Advertising and marketing are what you say about yourself, while PR is what other people say about you. Many people either ignore the content they see in ads or reject it out of hand because they don’t trust it. They believe that advertisers aren’t truthful or that companies exaggerate the claims in their marketing materials.

By contrast, PR is all about crafting a message for your company. There’s a risk here, as you don’t control the entire story yourself, but the potential benefits are worth the trade-offs. Because so many consumers don’t trust what they see or hear in ads, they look to third parties like news media, blogs, and other sources to verify those claims. A well-placed story in the right publication will do more for your credibility than any ad spend ever could. Furthermore, external links from reputable publications are a key factor in search engine results, meaning good PR can also make it easier for people to find your company.

 

Need Help With Your Trust Building PR Campaign?

Creating effective, striking PR campaigns for purpose-driven brands is what we do at Avaans Media, and we’d love to bring our expertise to your company. We have the media contacts, talent, and creative vision to craft the perfect PR campaign for companies of all sizes and in all manner of industries.

Our past clients have included consumer packaged goods manufacturers, nonprofits, and tech startups. We’ve even led a global campaign focused on boosting tourism for an entire country. In each case, we made sure to highlight the organizations’ values and strengths, and in each case, we achieved resounding success.

When you partner with Avaans Media, you’re getting a PR agency that knows how to showcase what makes purpose-driven brands special. We’ve been helping companies build trust since 2008. If you’re ready to see what we can do for you, visit our contact page to set up a phone call with one of our offices. You can also find our team locally in Denver, Phoenix, San Diego, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and New York.

CONTACT US TODAY

There are TWO keywords for your post-COVID marketing strategy: Trust and Retention

2020 won’t be a year any of us forgets anytime soon. Social distancing brought us personal and economic uncertainty that’s sure to last through the remainder of the year. We won’t fully appreciate the full impact on this global pandemic for a very long time. Now IS the time to think about your post-COVID marketing strategies though.

Right now, businesses are having to make decisions that will determine whether they’re company survives or even thrives in a post-COVID-19 world.

Let’s face it, post-COVID marketing and PR will be very needed. It’s not a question of “if,” it’s a question of “what” and “how.”

From past recessions, we know customers steer towards familiarity during times of uncertainty. With this in mind, it’s important for brands to cherish their customers, keep in touch with their customers and tap into and enhance brand loyalty.

Even in a recession, consumers will still splurge, they will STILL treat themselves, but emotional triggers take on outsized importance because consumers actually DO want to feel good about their purchases and when consumers are watching their expenses closely, they have more to lose from a lousy brand (product, customer service, communication) experience. When consumers are watching their pennies, they aren’t taking as many risks with their money.

Get Emotional With Your Customer Retention

Now is a great time to reinforce the brand relationship with existing customers. Think about customer loyalty programs and branding & PR initiatives that strike right to the heart of your existing customers. Discounts and sales are easy, but do nothing for loyalty, so look at reinforcing customer loyalty right now. Now, understand, no consumer says “I want a relationship with a brand,” instead the relationship resides in their subconscious. Our work with Captivation Motivations means we deeply understand how consumers act, even when they don’t understand why they act.

Not only does post-COVID marketing to existing customers cost less than acquiring new customers, but it also pads the bottom line for years to come:

1) Customers with an emotional relationship with a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value and will recommend the company at a rate of 71%, rather than the average rate of 45%. (Motista)

2) Emotionally connected customers stay with a brand an average of 5.1 years vs. 3.4 years (Motista)

3) Emotionally connected customers recommend brands at much higher rates: 30.2% vs. 7.6% (Motista)

Grab Share of Voice While It’s Available

Brands who maintain or even increase ad spends are able to thrive in the years after recessions, the same will be true for post-COVID marketing. There are several reasons for this, first is branding confidence.

While the Edelman Trust Barometer of 2020 addresses the lack of trust in advertising, the strategy behind advertising isn’t trust itself, it’s exposure which leads to familiarity, which leads to increased trust. Also, the ROI will improve because fewer competitors will be advertising so your message will come across more strongly.

Plus, consumers know that marketing decreases during recessions, so by advertising you’re sending a message of your own confidence and strength to both customers and competition.

That said, expect PR, specifically earned media, to take an outsized influence as earned media leads in trust. Brands using PR to refine and focus their commitment to their existing customers will score extra bonus points in customer retention.

4) Companies who maintained or increase ad spend during a recession saw a 256% increase in sales over those who cut back (Innovating Through a Recession: Professor Andrew J. Razeghi Kellogg School of Management)

5) 92% of consumers say they trust earned media over purely promotional content. (PR Daily)

6) 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads (Content Marketing Institute)

Maximize Happy Customers


Celebrate your existing customers, because customer retention is the name of the game. But go the extra mile too, ask for and encourage your customers to give you reviews and feedback AND show that you appreciate their willingness to do so. The reason for this is simple, the more engaged a customer, the more likely they are to be in the habit of referring you to others.

For the last decade, we’ve witnessed one of the most incredible consumer shifts in marketing: the traceability of consumer referrals. We now know that for certain that when a friend recommends a product or service, that product or service immediately benefits from a trust boost. This trend will be on supercharge throughout 2020.

During the boom economy, you probably spent the majority of your marketing budget on the acquisition of new customers. In the post-COVID marketing world, now it’s time to turn your funding away from acquisition funnels and into emotional connections and reinforcing trust with your existing customers, pivoting your marketing budget towards this strategy will increase revenues (yes, even during a recession).

7) Happy American customers will share their positive experiences with and refer about 11 people. (American Express)

8) It’s 5-25X more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer. (HBR)

9) A 5% increase in customer retention can increase company revenue by 25-95%. (HBR)

10) 80% of an organization’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers (InsightSquared)

 

What exactly IS brand trust and how do we measure it?

Brand trust is measured in many ways, sometimes we use a metric like a net promoter score. Sometimes the value of a brand is incorporated into EBITA, and we infer higher brand-value equals trust.

But really, what IS brand trust?  In a global environment where, according to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in institutions and media is at an all-time low, it’s more important than ever for brands of all sizes to keep ahead of the trust curve.

Neuroscientists have been researching the effects of our brains on trust with interesting results.  Neuroscientists have been researching the effects of our brains on trust with interesting results. In the book Brand Seduction-How Neuroscience Can Help Marketers Build Memorable Brands, Daryl Weber reveals how the unconscious mind is constantly picking up cues from our environment, including cues from brands, most of us don’t even realize our brain is doing this monitoring on our behalf. What this means though, is that every single subtle brand cue sends a message.

So how should we interpret trust in everyday execution and metrics analysis?

THE BRAIN ON FEAR

Think about the last time something you saw on social media enraged you. Chance are, just reliving that moment has your blood pressure spiking.  “Flight or fight” response, makes our brain neurons fire like mad. This, in turn, creates an emotional response. In contrast, our brain on trust is relaxed, open, I compare this state to homeostasis in the body. It’s the place our brain WANTS to be, but it’s also the place where triggers are not as emotional.

What this means is that emotional responses may NOT be positive for a brand trust. Take, for example, Facebook reactions. Content that triggers the most “viral” response is often content that creates anger, fear or other negative sentiments. But social media platforms (and their algorithms) aren’t yet evolved enough to understand that highly emotional reactions may not mean a piece of content is valuable for trust.The most viral content may do nothing to enhance trust. This does not mean that good never goes viral, but it DOES mean that computers don’t yet really grasp the difference,  even if humans (subconsciously) do.  But, humans are imperfect, and we’re often not even aware of our own reactions to messages.

This is to say, that in trust building, messages or ads that are viewed, but without huge emotional responses may actually be better for building trust. If you track reactions or sentiment on social, it might be disappointing at times to see that trust messages or messages built with trust intentions don’t get a lot of “lift.” But I would argue, that is exactly what you want from trust messaging.

LOW RESPONSE BUT MORE OF IT?

Imagine you’re making a special chocolate cake.
You create the first layer and ad the frosting.
It’s a good cake. It will taste good.
But it isn’t very impactful. So you add another layer. And another.
And before you know it, you have this impactful cake with layers of goodness inside. And when you finally EAT the cake, you enjoy it, even more, knowing there are multiple layers of goodness.  Trust is like that. The first layer of trust is good. It’s acceptable. But multiple layers of trust are better. Multiple layers of trust take time. The emotional response to trust is not “at the moment,” trust building is a front-loaded proposition. The payoff comes at the end. The payoff comes when the brand’s experience matches the anticipated trust. The brain remembers THAT satisfaction. Perhaps more subtly than an outraged response. But the brain DOES remember it at buying time. When you ate your beautiful chocolate cake, you enjoyed it. The next time you make a cake you’re more likely to make a chocolate cake over say, vanilla. This is how brand trust works.

The thing is, you need to reinforce that positive experience and positive response over and over. The subtle cues build up over time. But they can be replaced by constantly good experiences of vanilla cake too – because, you know, vanilla is equally yummy. Consistency is the key.

Have you ever known a brand one way than seen an ad that completely shifts the message? It’s jarring. Just today I was watching a conversation about a brand whose messaging, packing, product and ads were all luxury-level classy. Then they ran an ad showing a woman in panties with a pretty vulgar statement written on the panties. WOW! It got the attention of everyone, but overwhelmingly, their current customers were outraged, they thought they “knew” the brand, in some cases, people actually expressed betrayal.  These customers related to what they thought the brand was, a luxury-level classy product.  The brand’s trust has been shattered in the eyes of some. This particular ad may get high virality, but will the sentiment be overwhelmingly positive? And even it works, with what I call “a sugar spike” of sales, will those new customers be as loyal as the old ones? Will the old ones stick around?

Consistency is key. In branding trust, slow and steady wins the race. Look for consistently growing results, not “sugar spikes.” Sugar spikes mean you’re appealing to a specific audience over a short period of time, but not building any loyalty. That’s an even more expensive proposition than branding.

 

HOW DOES THE BRAIN BUILD TRUST?

We’re conditioned to trust our tribes.  Our brains attribute trust to brands who our tribe use. That’s why influencer marketing and customer reviews are so powerful. The person doesn’t even have to comment about using the product, they simply have to be seen using it.

One of the more brilliant examples of this is Jennifer Aniston’s water. This campaign works for two reasons: I KNOW Jennifer Aniston’s face already AND it’s consistent.  If you read any of the “celebrity” publications at all, you have seen Jennifer Aniston leaving the gym, getting out of her car or shopping with a bottle of water in her hand. SmartWater (and it’s parent company Coca-Cola) tapped into the inherent trust that Jennifer Aniston brings and then they gave her enough water to last a lifetime. Yes, Jennifer Aniston also appears in ads for this water, but the most memorable (to me, at least) are the pictures of her going throughout her daily life using the water. Every single time I open a magazine and there is a picture of Jennifer Aniston going about her daily life, she has SmartWater. This has been going on since 2015. Every single time I’m at the airport, I grab SmartWater, and I’m not even a particularly huge fan of hers, but somewhere in my brain I say “if it’s good enough for Jennifer Aniston, it’s good enough for me.” It’s not a conscious thought – it’s the brain operating and choosing based on those many layers. My hand just reaches for SmartWater, I don’t even really think about it. That’s what I mean by trust being a front-loaded proposition.

Zappos is another great example of brand trust. When Tony Hsieh started Zappos, he didn’t double down on ads, he doubled down on customer service. When the company was acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion, 75% of its customers were returning customers.

 

BRAND ACTIONS OUTWEIGH ALL OTHER MESSAGES

If your water brand hires Jennifer Aniston and does all the same things as SmartWater did, but if it’s revealed that the water isn’t what it says it is, none of this will matter. Experience trumps all in trust. Worse, trust takes a long time to build, but it’s easily shattered. If you’re going to invest in trust, you must invest in an authentic way.

Above when I mentioned the jarring change of tone from classy to trashy, this also indicates that the brand isn’t clear on who it is and creates questions about the brand. “What other brand values are negotiable?” asks the brain. If this brand has built up trust with its existing customers, those customers now (even if subconsciously) question that trust.

An example of brand trust that does work is Red Bull. They’ve built their entire brand around adrenaline-fueled messaging. They went so far as to sponsor Felix Baumgartner when he jumped from space in 2012.  While this kind of stunt is absolutely designed to attract your attention, it’s also building brand trust – Red Bull’s customers know exactly what Red Bull stands for and they love it. Brand trust doesn’t have to be boring. 

IS BRAND TRUST WORTH THE INVESTMENT?

I suppose that depends on whether you’re in it for the long haul or not. Brand trust makes it easier for your customer to buy, creates triggers at the exact buying moment and that’s huge. But what else? Brand trust actually adds value to your company, makes it easier to attract talent and decreases costs because the product is easier for salespeople to sell. In the long run, brand trust saves money by also retaining customers.

In the end, brand trust is accessible to businesses of all sizes, but it takes commitment and consistency and yes, authenticity. You don’t need to be the biggest player on the block, just the most trusted.

In a world where trust in organizations is diminishing, building trust can be your most valuable asset – and because suspicion is so high for known brands, smaller niche brands who really do what they say and are consistent about it, have lots of room to develop that trust.

So what can you expect when you invest in brand trust? You might not see “sugar spikes,” and huge social media shares, instead you should see brand value reflected by consistent sales, repeat customers and even a stronger valuation that you’d have without it.

If you’re ready to invest in your brand, we are here to help you develop and execute your vision with aggressive elegance, contact us today.