How do you persuade your customers that your brand will actually keep its promise?

It’s a common challenge especially if you have lost some trust because of some event or problem that is connected to your brand or your category. You and your brand must convince a doubting audience that it will deliver on its value proposition, its higher purpose, its commitment to customers, its personality, and much more. There is a practical barrier to that goal: Counter-arguing.

Customers hear the brand argument and voice their skepticism, perhaps just in their own thoughts. They counter argue against the persuasive efforts of the brand. The result is that persuasion is neutralized and, perhaps worse, negative brand thoughts are solidified or even generated by the encounter.

There are 5 ways psychologists recommend you can minimize counter-arguing:

A Persuasive Source

If Phil Mickelson is speaking about the powers of a new driver, consumers will be less likely to counter argue, because he is a credible golf expert, is likable and trustworthy. Counter-arguing would be against him rather than the brand and the logic of the argument. And who wants to argue with Phil Mickelson about the power of a new driver?

A Refutational Appeal

If the “other side” of the argument is preemptively introduced and refuted, it is less likely to come up as a counter-argument. So when Tesla was confronted with two or three incidents of fire, it could mention that fact and then explain the much larger incidents of fire in gas cars and how they actually threaten life. Bringing up the Tesla’s fires at the outset makes the counter-argument nearly irrelevant.

A Sense of Humor

During the energy crisis, when oil companies were disliked and disbelieved, Chevron was effective with a very humorous, lively ad using a cartoon dinosaur around the theme “We’re running out of dinosaurs” that promoted energy conversation. The use of a bouncy message with humor distracted people from their natural tendency to counter-argue.

A Symbol

Symbols such as The Jolly Green Giant or the Pillsbury Doughboy can deliver or support a message and counter-arguing will be reduced. Why would you argue with such a familiar and friendly face? It makes no sense to argue with a cartoon, anyway! Makes you wonder why there are not more symbols introduced.

A Good Story

Express an argument supported by even the most persuasive facts and you encourage counter-arguing. Embed the argument in a story and the story gets the attention. If an unknown blender firm had marshalled facts to support its position as a superior technology, it would have been greeted with skepticism. But when Blendtec told a story about it blender challenge the audience response is different.

Blendtec asks the “Will It Blend?” question. The objects are seemingly impossible to blend items like marbles, wood items, iPods, and more. The always surprising result is that they blender crushes them and the audience is diverted by the story line from counter arguing. The success of the story resulted in what some have called the most viewed set of commercials in the digital space ever.

There is a natural instinct for a brand team to want to communicate the attributes of the brand and offering and to argue why it should be the preferred choice. However, such a direct, rational approach engenders counter-arguing, which can make the effort ineffective or worse. Neutralize counter-arguments by some form of audience distraction that will inhibit counter-arguing.