In the 1950’s, “credibility” was THE critical factor in advertising, and integrally, inextricably linked to being believed. In the 1990’s, they became distinctly separate component parts of an advertising or sales story, and it became possible to function with zero credibility if you had sufficient believability. In the new millennium, believability takes precedence (except for customers over age 55 or 60.)
I’ve been talking about this quite a bit for the last 10 years or more. To quickly review, “credibility” is typically illustrated with years in business; years in the community; the firm having been founded by grand-dad, a direct descendant from the Pilgrims; a photograph of the big building housing the firm; that sort of thing.
“Believability” used to require “credibility” as its foundation. But that rule is broken. Anyway, “believability” is presented with social proof or peer proof, such as testimonials; dramatic, easy to grasp physical demonstrations (even if rigged), being seen on TV, being used or patronized or endorsed by celebrities (even if they have no credibility), as well as via the convincing style of the presenter/presentation.
But having said all that, the best approach is still to integrate the two. Which brings me to a Jerry Buchanan writing from 1995:
If I had to give a two word instruction of how to deliver an excellent sales story – the words would be:
In today’s marketplace, the buyer has become a natural doubter of almost any appeal to his pocket-book. While you may say the right things in the opening headline or first sentences to gain his attention, or you may present an offer perfectly in tune with his greatest fears and desires, if you slip and say just one little exaggeration, advance one half-truth, take just one too aggressive a liberty, you shoot yourself in the foot.
Any one thing said tha cannot be believed undermines everything else said.”
In short, if there’s a weak link anywhere in your sales story, it’ll break. This is why, when I construct a sales story for a client, I’m constantly looking for the weak link, and I painstakingly strive to prove each individual link in the entire chain of ideas, information and assertions.
And it is NOT enough just NOT to fib; you must try to prove the legitimacy of your assertions. The most certain approach to this is to isolate each separate claim, ‘fact’, promise, benefit and assertion on its own piece of paper or 3×5″ card, then match it with some item of proof you will use to establish or reinforce its believability.
The most dangerous approach is to peruse you will be believed because of your credibility or because of the obviousness of the truth or for any other reason.