Building trust with your audience


What do you remember about the last piece of advertising you saw? Do you even remember it? Do you know how many millions of impressions it earned? Most advertising doesn’t inform, let alone impress, anyone. Maybe we should rethink the language we use when we talk about advertising and consider using ‘exposure’ as a metric instead of impressions. To ‘impress’ is memorable, it’s weighty, it implies that there is an impact made on the viewer. Exposure is probably more realistic for most media these days.

It feels as though marketers have placed a priority on the safest bet. Lately, I have heard statements like: “We had amazing content and engagement that served our goals with your team, but these guys can measure impressions per image, so….” I can empathize with safe marketing logic like that. Not many marketers have lost their jobs pursuing the safe bet. On the contrary, not many marketers have driven real impact without having conviction, creativity, and instinct. But prioritizing the impressiveness of marketing content is not mutually exclusive with the need to measure impact.

My thesis is that the root cause of these decisions comes down to trust. Marketers who go with the safe bet don’t trust the vendor partner, the strategy, the creative content, the influencers themselves, or some other part of the system. Everyone is looking for the guaranteed win. Chris Farley taught us a great lesson on marketing in Tommy Boy when he was trying to sell Callahan brake pads to a distributor who wanted “a guarantee on the box”:

Tommy: … Let’s think about this for a sec, Ted, why would somebody put a guarantee on a box? Hmmm, very interesting.

Ted Nelson: Go on, I’m listening.

Tommy: Here’s the way I see it, Ted. Guy puts a fancy guarantee on a box ’cause he wants you to feel all warm and toasty inside.

Ted Nelson: Yeah, makes a man feel good.

Tommy: ‘Course it does. Why shouldn’t it? Ya figure you put that little box under your pillow at night, the Guarantee Fairy might come by and leave a quarter, am I right, Ted?

Ted Nelson: What’s your point?

Tommy: The point is, how do you know the fairy isn’t a crazy glue sniffer? “Building model airplanes” says the little fairy, well, we’re not buying it. He sneaks into your house once, that’s all it takes. The next thing you know, there’s money missing off the dresser and your daughter’s knocked up, I’ve seen it a hundred times.

Ted Nelson: But why do they put a guarantee on the box?

Tommy: Because they know all they sold ya was a guaranteed piece of shit. That’s all it is, isn’t it? Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I got spare time. But for now, for your customer’s sake, for your daughter’s sake, ya might wanna think about buying a quality product from me.

Ted Nelson: Okay, I’ll buy from you.

Tommy: Well, that’s… What?
That exchange should be on a poster in every marketing department.

We can make one guarantee in marketing: if your content is not impressive, then the number of people who see it just doesn’t matter. Because of influencer marketing’s limitations, like reliance on platform accessibility and the variables of human behavior, guaranteeing impressions will never be a perfect science. But that doesn’t really matter because the tougher task is building a relationship with the creative community and building a compelling story for them and their audience to tell. If you can trust the creator and the creative process you can make an impression on an audience. When that audience is impressed, they will remember.