Lack of credibility

Warning: this content is older than 365 days. It may be out of date and no longer relevant.

I was shopping at an appliance store recently, when I saw this little tag on one of the appliances:


This is the epitome of a lack of credibility. If it’s not obvious, the tag says “Rated #7 in a leading consumer magazine”. When you look more closely at it and flip it over, it tells you… nothing. Not what the magazine was. Not what it was rated for. Nothing. The only fine print says “Based on an online posting by a leading consumer magazine”.

To give you a sense of how this sticker lacks credibility, I could easily call this blog a leading consumer magazine. There’s no qualification of that expression, and to some of you who do perceive me as a leader in our little community, it would even be a somewhat truthful statement. If I asked you in the comments to name your favorite appliances, then I have successfully replicated the methodology used to make this advertisement.

Ask yourself this: would you buy this appliance, part with your hard-earned money, because of a selection of comments on a blog post? In essence, that’s exactly what you’d be doing if you believe this sticker to be credible.

Are consumers so easily beguiled that you can, as a marketer, get away with such a blatantly non-credible advertisement? In a word, yes. A significant enough percentage of the population simply doesn’t care about the credibility of the advertisement. Some people assume (rightly) that it’s all manipulated and paid for anyway, which does happen, especially when it comes to awards. Some people simply don’t care to dig any deeper. They’re busy enough in their lives that the simple statement suffices, credible or not. Of course, some people lack the ability to understand what they should be critical of. They simply don’t know what to look for.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t bother? Does this mean that our efforts to be compliant with AAPOR and other organizations don’t matter? Also in a word, no. Some portion – the discriminating consumer, the educated consumer – will assess our credibility based on what they’re seeing. These folks are the ones we turn to when we ask for advice, when we ask for recommendations. If we lack credibility with the true influencers in our community, then purchases will not happen as frequently. Over time, that lack of credibility will spread until no one believes what you have to say.

Credibility is the table minimum in the marketing game. The moment you get lazy and forsake credibility entirely, as this particular company has done, you fold. You may win other hands, but you’re on a path to lose the game.

You might also enjoy:

Want to read more like this from Christopher Penn? Get updates here:

subscribe to my newsletter here

AI for Marketers Book
Take my Generative AI for Marketers course!

Analytics for Marketers Discussion Group
Join my Analytics for Marketers Slack Group!


3 responses to “Lack of credibility”

  1. Credibility and reputation become more and more important when the field is crowded with nonsense. It’s why Consumer Reports continues to exist over other outlets, because they have a long history of good and dependable evaluations of products and people who use them are rarely disappointed.

    The other interesting question is always “#7? Out of how many? Maybe it’s 7 out of 7 rated- and this is the worst! When is #7 bragging and when is it laughably bad?” And moreover, in the age of big data, almost every purchase can become a research project to balance reviews and inputs for credibility- leaving many people to simply choose one or two favorite sources and crowdsourcing for their purchase decisions.
    I would trust your opinion, for example, more than a random person on Amazon any day for a variety of reasons, but mostly because you have a history of honesty and reliability unmatched pretty much anywhere.

    Integrity is the name of the game these days- and there’s just no getting around that fact.

  2. David Thomas Avatar
    David Thomas

    Agreeing with your assessment, the sticker is vague. It’s possible that the manufacturer appreciated the high (?) score, but didn’t want to pay the licensing fees to use the magazine’s name. It’s all or nothing – legitimize the review or don’t reference it!

  3. It’s the same fallacy as “savings up to” some obscene number or a price that “starts at” something low, when in reality most people get a mere fraction of the “up to” number and they pay way more than the “starts at” price. It’s designed to get people to buy the product.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This