The Nexus of Persuasion and Confidence
As digital marketers our job is to help clients achieve greater commercial success through the use of digital channels that improve brand health and deliver sales. Generally, efforts that support these goals are persuasive in nature – for example: inspiring, compelling and convincing a consumer to book a Hilton instead of another hotel because of its superior location, services, or price – making a marketing promise. But this persuasive approach, while effective when done well, simply cannot influence consumer behavior with the same degree of success as Word-of-Mouth (WOM) where the message from peer-to-peer is perceived with credibility and thus providing greater confidence that a consumer’s expectations will be met.
The difference boils down to consumer confidence – advertising and marketing messages are inherently persuasive and rightly perceived as biased whereas WOM messages naturally build (or diminish) confidence without perceived bias. Studying the combined influences of persuasion and confidence upon an individual consumer as she considers a purchase is critical to understanding consumer behavior and marketing effectiveness. The tipping point where there is just the right combination of confidence and persuasive influences to justify the purchase, and when she ultimately decides to buy, is the nexus of persuasion and confidence.
Rarely are the persuasive and confidence influences equal at the nexus or time of purchase because brands/products/services with high degrees of consumer confidence don’t require a lot of persuasive messaging. Inversely, those brands/products/services with low degrees of consumer confidence must be very persuasive for one to justify the purchase.
From an economic perspective, maximizing persuasion is an expensive proposition. Many of the most effective marketing campaigns are so because of the scale of investment in terms of creative production values, media investment and also price discounting. Meanwhile it can be argued that maximizing confidence is significantly less costly as the confidence building channels, such as WOM, are often free and little if any price discounting is necessary.
It’s logical then that we’re seeing a renewed interest in WOM as marketers become more savvy and cost conscious, and as the internet continues to facilitate the distribution of WOM from peer to peer via online communities, forums, blogs and review sites. The key for marketers today is to leverage these online WOM channels effectively to build confidence in their brands, without abusing the opportunities they present or alienating consumers in the process.
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