New Ways to Build Belief

The name of the game in branding has always been about belief. A company has to get the public to believe something about a brand.

For a long time, that was done primarily through advertising, but it’s gotten pretty tough to create an ad that people actually believe anymore. (Some clear this hurdle: See Apple’s iPhone ads. Apple has people believing Siri can actually do all this crap.)

Starting around the 1950s, public relations became a path to belief. Get a third party — the press — to say good things about you, and people will believe it more than they believe ads.

But the press is sinking, and social media lets people say anything they want about a brand while Yelp offers ratings and search engines uncover everything. PR was about spin, and spin is now left naked. Everybody sees right through it.

So what’s next? The Arthur W. Page Society, a prestigious marketing group, says belief has to be built through things like authenticity, credibility, and trust. No more lies. No more spin. A successful brand has to offer something that feels real and true to the public.

One of the effective ways to do that now is to offer information that’s valuable or useful, or non-fiction storytelling that’s instructive or enriching. This is the kind of stuff that newspapers and magazines have always done — but increasingly don’t do anymore because they don’t have the staff or the pages.

If the content is really great, people won’t just believe it — they’ll pass it around on Facebook and Twitter and tell other people to believe it. And if the content makes sense for the brand, all that good feeling will get associated with the brand.

I recently ran across a nice example of this, called Threatpost. It’s a news blog about computer security and viruses. It’s funded by Kaspersky Lab, which happens to make computer security software. But Kaspersky hired two long-time tech journalists — Dennis Fisher and Paul Roberts — to run a credible journalistic site.

As far as I can tell, Kaspersky keeps its mitts off the journalists. So the site has become much read among people who are interested in security. That leads to some trust of Kaspersky. And Kaspersky gets another benefit: by writing about every security threat that rears its head, the site helps convince people they need security software. Even if all the site’s readers don’t then buy Kaspersky products, certainly some of them will.

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