- Fri, May 13 2011
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
(UPDATE: CORRECTED FIRST SENTENCE)
One of the things I often say is that the messenger supersedes the message in importance. Who is talking matters more than what is said.
Now there’s research featured in the Inside Influence Report which shows just how potent this phenomenon proves to be. It turns out a trusted, authentic messenger with a shaky endorsement beats a paid spokesperson with a ringing endorsement any day.
“A series of new studies conducted by Stanford Business School’s Zak Tormala and Uma Karmarkar and published recently in the Journal of Consumer Research suggest that rather than the most confident sounding expert being the most persuasive it is often the recommendations and advice from experts that are themselves uncertain, that will be more compelling.
Their series of studies found that an experts’ influence over others increases when that expert expresses minor doubts about their advice and opinions. They found that this effect was particularly acute when an expert’s advice concerned subjects or situations where there was no one single clear or obvious answer.
In one of the studies customers were shown a positive review for a new restaurant called Bianco’s. However, some customers were told that the review was written by a well known and regularly published food critic and others were told the review was written by a little known blogger who mostly ate in fast food restaurants.
As well as varying the expertise of each reviewer the researchers also varied how confident each reviewer felt about the review’s accuracy. In the high-certainty condition the reviewer wrote “I ate dinner there and can confidently give this restaurant a 4 star rating.” In the low-certainty condition the reviewer said, “Because I have only eaten at Bianco’s once I am not completely confident in my opinion but, for now, I am awarding this restaurant 4 stars”.
Those who read the review from the expert who also expressed uncertainty (low certainty expert condition) were significantly more favourable to the restaurant and rated the likelihood they would frequent it as much higher than those that read the reviews of a non-expert or expert who was highly certain. In each case the review’s content was the same.”
In this world of marketing saturation, it’s hard to find people we trust. When we do, we’ll accept a lukewarm thumbs up with more enthusiasm than slick rave reviews.
Remember that in promoting your cause. An honest volunteer or a beneficiary with an imperfect message may be your best spokesperson.