Ten Words That Build Trust

Do you think one short sentence at the end of your ad could cause a major increase in the level of trust customers place in you? Believe it or not, it’s true. Researchers found that placing the following statement at the end of an ad for a auto service firm caused their trust scores to jump as much as 33%!

“You can trust us to do the job for you.”

Seems simple, eh? Almost something that doesn’t even need to be said, since the implication in any ad or relationship is that if you give the firm a job to do, they will do it. There’s no claim of doing it right, doing it better, doing it quickly, or even doing it with a smile.

Nevertheless, that phrase caused people to rate the firm in the ad higher in every category:

Fair Price – Up 7%
Caring – Up 11%
Fair Treatment – Up 20%
Quality – Up 30%
Competency – Up 33%

It’s quite surprising that as nebulous as the “trust us” statement was, it produced major increases in very specific areas of performance.

So, if you want your customers to trust you, remind them that they CAN trust you. Try it. It will work. You can trust me.

Image via Shutterstock. Original study: On the Potential for Advertising to Facilitate Trust in the Advertised Brand by Fuan Li and Paul W. Miniard. Summarized data can be found in About Face by Dan Hill.

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This post was written by:

— who has written 959 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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32 responses to "Ten Words That Build Trust" — Your Turn

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Verilliance
Twitter: verilliance
8. November 2010 at 11:41 am

Power of suggestion!

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Naomi Niles
Twitter: NaomiNiles
8. November 2010 at 11:46 am

That’s interesting!

I wonder how much more you could improve that further by including a trust statement and then backing it up with factual numbers or similar.

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Anonymous 8. November 2010 at 1:32 pm

Those types of affirmations are very culture dependant. Might work well in one market and yield the exact opposite effect in another one. Myself, when I hear “you can trust me”, alarm bells ring in my head…

From my experience, “We built our business/clientèle on this type of work” is a safer and more efficient in most markets.

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Gabriele Maidecchi
Twitter: maidoesimple
8. November 2010 at 1:47 pm

Amazing how sometimes the simplest of things can cause the most awesome results.
I sure am going to suggest this in my company, I trust you.

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Duff 8. November 2010 at 3:49 pm

I tend to have the opposite response to stuff like that. When a company calls themselves “Integrity Inc.” I think “if they have to say it, they probably aren’t.”

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David Clay 8. November 2010 at 4:20 pm

Great post! It’s always the small things that marketers tend to forget about. For example saying on an actual Facebook ad to like the comment, instead of just giving them a description of your company or product.
As marketers we need to realize that we have to guide people to our product or service even if it means we have to hand feed them.

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Chris Zdunich 8. November 2010 at 5:46 pm

Like Brian Tracy says … the psychology of selling.

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Trever Clark (The Axis of Awesome Blog) 9. November 2010 at 12:31 am

That’s a pretty amazing statistic. It makes me wonder why everyone isn’t doing something like this in their advertising. May have to give this a go before long. It would be fun to split test it, and see if I could duplicate those stats on my own for an ad that included that verbiage vs. one that didn’t…

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Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
9. November 2010 at 1:51 am

I agree, Trever, testing is always the way to go. You can never completely generalize from one experience and assume that it will work in exactly the same manner in another.

Roger

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Rob Berman
Twitter: rcberman
9. November 2010 at 10:20 am

Roger:

Fascinating point. Like folks above I would like something quantitative. I suggest to clients that they measure themselves with customers. Then your trust statement is more like, “90% of our customers rate our company as excellent.”

What do you think?

Rob

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Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
9. November 2010 at 10:26 am

Rob, as a general rule I like evidence of customer satisfaction/trust. This includes testimonials (with real names and pictures when possible) and more general measures of satisfaction (e.g., “92% of first time customers place another order within six months.”) I do believe including this kind of info can build credibility.

Roger

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Brendon B Clark 9. November 2010 at 4:26 pm

Echoing the comments on testing as above, but this is a good and simple test to run.

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Rosanna 9. November 2010 at 7:26 pm

Let’s all remember that it only fools – at best – 33% of the population! Besides, it pretty much depends on what clients you want to work with. If you are fine working with people that buys into what they are told without thinking twice then do it. But some people are (or would be) extremely uncomfortable stealing candies from kids ;)

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Sam 10. November 2010 at 6:57 pm

I don’t think that backing the claim with figures would necessarily boost the favorable response.

The psychology behind these results seems to reflect that the phrase appeals to consumers’ emotional and subconscious mind rather than their logical minds. This is supported by the fact that besides the phrase itself, there is really nothing to back the advertiser’s contention, yet responses are drastically more favorable.

This is more like conversational hypnosis, where suggestions are made to bypass the conscious/logical mind and target the subconscious. Therefore, adding figures may actually trigger defenses and challenges typical of logical thinking, possibly leading to counter-productive results.

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Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
12. November 2010 at 9:20 am

Interesting point, Sam. In essence, you are suggesting that providing supporting facts could interfere with the emotional appeal. That could well be right. I’ve heard some marketers suggest that you should try to do both – win the customer over with emotion, but then provide some logical reasons so that the customer’s conscious brain can justify the purchase. Worth testing both ways.

Roger

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Andy's Web Tools
Twitter: AndysWebTools
11. November 2010 at 3:05 pm

Interesting insights into what type of language resonates with consumers. When building small business websites, keep this type of language in mind for your copy!

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Mary Jo Martin 12. November 2010 at 9:09 am

Quick question – were the percentages quoted % increase or percentage POINT increases? That could make a big difference…

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Ron FInklestein 12. November 2010 at 12:04 pm

Great article. I think these words are so powerful because they appeal to the mid brain whose function is to take care of us. What these words imply is that you are the safe and right decision. Thanks for the article

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keshav kansana 13. November 2010 at 11:06 pm

good article showing the feeling of being cared off creates the better relationship which result into the rise in the trust in the product or the service and company too.

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keshav kansana 13. November 2010 at 11:09 pm

trust me this statement works better when u r realy practicing it, it will have a synergic effect then. othewise customer take it in different way

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Vesna 14. November 2010 at 2:18 pm

I think this could work with (my) other goals: I want to persuade customers to act in a special way (to achieve my goals) – I have to be clear in communication that they can take this special action to get advantage/utility.

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Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
14. November 2010 at 4:15 pm

Vesna, I’m not sure one can generalize from this work and assume that telling people what you want them to do will automatically work. Clear communication, though, may be better than obfuscation. Test several variations and see what works best.

Roger

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Steve Dale 16. November 2010 at 10:50 am

This is very good info. I have always avoided such “corney” wording in my ads. I’ll start today using this! Thanks

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Jim Harshaw 16. November 2010 at 11:49 am

That was the most interesting thing I’ve read all day. You can trust me when I say that.

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Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
16. November 2010 at 12:11 pm

Steve, it’s worth a try but be sure to test against a control. What works in some situations may not in others. Good luck, and let us know how you do!

Roger

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Georgia Christian 18. November 2010 at 2:06 am

Thank you for a great article. It really is amazing how much of an impact the subconscious can have.

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Jack Vincent 27. December 2010 at 4:36 pm

In the b2b world, I can see buyers laughing at that early in the purchasing/sales cycle. “Never trust anybody who says, ‘Trust me’.” Today, trust has to be earned, not asked for. In fact, asking for it too early can, in itself, breach it.

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Ryan Critchett
Twitter: ryancritchett
12. January 2011 at 12:30 pm

Ha! You said “you can trust me” at the end. I love this – totally true, totally relevant. Nice post.

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Rod Schwartz
Twitter: rodspots
12. January 2011 at 2:04 pm

Not having seen the ad in question, one can only speculate that the effectiveness of that tagline in bolstering the advertiser’s credibility with readers was greatly dependent upon the preceding message to which it was appended.

Simply invoking trust isn’t enough. Like “service” and “quality,” trust has become one of those adspeak cliches we as consumers have learned to discount, if not completely ignore.

Anonymous (“…’We built our business/clientèle on this type of work’ is a (sic) safer and more efficient in most markets.”) fails to comprehend the real genius of the phrase in question. Where Anonymous would prefer to leave the consumer with an image of advertiser’s chest-thumping, the auto service firm chose instead to convey the message: “it’s really about YOU.”

“You can trust us to do the job for you.”

Did you notice the inclusio? The line begins and ends with the most powerful word in all of advertising. Smart choice.

Regardless, the most powerful, memorable taglines/slogans/positioners have always been anchored to a message of some substance, a value or premise that the advertiser has sufficiently established in the soul of the reader/listener/viewer.

My favorite ten-word tagline of all time? “Hallmark. When you care enough to send the very best.” Preceded by a story full of emotion and resonance, always happily resolved—usually presented in the larger context of a feature-length human interest story. That’s advertising that sticks.

And it was created by: a salesman.

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James
Twitter: jamesmasonlv
29. July 2011 at 2:57 pm

I love research, and rarely question it, but I would have to see this article, because some of the claims are not only counterintuitive, which is fine, but downright unbelievable, which is not. Moreover, I believe other commenters are dead-on when they point out that “trust me” cues are often take as red flags. “Trust me” says the talking head, and I back away from the TV. And when the salesdroid says “YOU can trust me,” I immediately become convinced that I can NOT.

Maybe it’s because the trust me cue was so vague that it was effective, especially in context of the auto service environment. My own former Auto Service Provider is the same one I used for almost two decades, and I DID trust them, until they blew it. 20 years, down the hatch. Now, there’s NOTHING they could say to induce me to come back. Although, I will say that “James, we’re REALLY sorry we messed up; here’s a new car” would at least turn my head. I’m just sayin’.

Finally, I have never believed, and never will, that there is just ONE most powerful word or phrase in all of advertising, or sales, or marketing, or anything else. Nevertheless, “please” and “Thank You” go a long, LONG way with me.

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Steph 6. December 2011 at 11:44 pm

That’s amazing! Funny how people need to be reminded to feel a certain way. Gotta love the insights from neuroscience!
It would be good though if we could see the ads that were used in the experiment.

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Roger Dooley
Twitter: rogerdooley
7. December 2011 at 7:45 am

I agree, Steph. Real-world ads have many elements that can be used to build trust – customer testimonials with real names, a photo of the owner, etc.

Roger

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16 responses to "Ten Words That Build Trust" — Your Turn

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