If you’re a Whole Foods fan, you’ll know they recently got into some hot water after an investigation found the company overcharged for prepackaged foods (which, if you’ve ever mistakenly purchased pineapple chunks for $9, should really come as no surprise).
Late last week, the founders of Whole Foods posted an apology video, which I saw for the first time on a late night scroll through Jezebel. And, true to the blog’s say-what-you-see nature, they posted the video and then this question:
Do you believe them?
For context, here’s a list of questions they didn’t ask their readers about the two founders:
What facts do they provide about the situation?
What reasons do they give for overcharging?
How do they word their apology?
What platform was the video uploaded to?
Do the founders look presentable?
Do the founders look professional?
Do the founders sound smart?
Instead, they asked the first and most important question we, as humans, ask ourselves when we come across communication from anyone—especially from brands (who we innately think are trying to persuade us of something, and are therefore skeptical): Do you believe them?
Which also happens to be the first and most important question your community will ask themselves when they come across any communication from you.
As humans, we know that when we believe in what a brand’s spokesperson is telling us, we trust that brand. And when we trust that brand, we’re more likely to engage with and buy from that brand.
Turns out, that’s not a cultural thing -- it’s actually how we’re wired. Here’s some neuroscience research I geeked out over earlier this year, from one of my favorite marketing books called What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story: “Memories are formed in the limbic area, the emotional brain. The stronger the emotion associated with an experience, the better we remember it. In the long run, we tend to remember more clearly the way an experience made us feel, rather than the facts and details associated with that experience."
When we apply this to marketing, our community is not going to buy from us or not buy from us because of the facts or logic we give them.
They're going to buy from us or not buy from us because of how we make them feel. And the first question they’re going to ask themselves to check-in with how they feel about the experience is:
Do I believe them?
Innately, we understand and can intellectualize this. But when it comes to marketing our own businesses, here's where I see us get into trouble: More often than not, when we’re writing our blogs or shooting our videos or drafting our speeches, we’re fact-focused. The first questions we usually ask ourselves are: What information do I need to get across? What messages do I need to include? What platforms am I going to use to promote this piece of content? What time should I publish it?
When, really, the first questions we should ask ourselves are: Am I being real? Will my community believe me? How am I making them feel?
Now, a quick public service announcement about these questions: You can't manipulate or persuade people into believing you (despite what some traditional marketing gurus say). I’d argue that approach never really worked, and with our BS meters on overdrive and more brands adopting open communication and transparency, it definitely won’t fly now.
With that said, here are three things you can do to bring your most real, genuine self to the party, and make sure your community is answering that all important question—"Do I believe them?"—with an enthusiastic "totally."
1. Use YOUR words, mannerisms and messages
Don’t write words or phrases in your newsletter that you wouldn’t say in person. If you're an animated talker, don’t shoot a stiff video with your hands glued to your sides. You may think you’re convincing people you’re professional, super smart and worthy of their business, but you’re really just giving them reason to think you're full of it.
2. Remove the "perfection" barrier
Use a teleprompter? Get rid of it. Trying to memorize your speech word-for-word? Don't. We do this because we want our communication to be perfect. In order for our community to believe us, they want our communication to be real.
3. Make sure YOU believe you
If someone helped you write your speech or gave you direction on your latest blog topic, that’s awesome. You’re never going to be able to do it all yourself. Just make sure you believe what you're saying before you say anything.There’s nothing that makes us non-believers like watching someone say something we can sense they don’t subscribe to themselves.
Now, back to the Whole Foods apology video. Check it out when you get a chance, and then I'd love to know: Do you believe them? Leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts (seriously! I'd love to hear from you!).