When It Comes to Marketing, Should you be Credible or Incredible?


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I got the idea for this post when listening to one of our Fusion Marketing Partners’ clients present at a webinar. The company official who presented was not particularly dynamic or polished but he did a great job of presenting the information in a thoughtful and logical manner and he definitely had what I term “marketing credibility”. As someone who studies and practices communication for clients and our own company, I read and listen to many so-called gurus who represent themselves as experts in their space.

Here are some statements I have heard or read recently that fall into the incredible category:

  • “Our xxxx software always outperforms our competition.”
  • “Our special xxxxx supplementation is guaranteed to make you lose weight”
  • “We have 100 percent customer satisfaction.”
  • “My normal consulting rate is $10,000 per day” (but you can join my private coaching group for only $500).
  • This timeshare will probably go up in value big time.
  • “Buy this stock now because it will double in price within six months.”

Don’t know about you but I tired of these incredible claims. And yes, I did once buy a timeshare and learned a painful lesson (fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice and shame on me). Yes, people fall for these claims and yes (with a few limitations) it is pretty much a free market where you can say anything you want. But unless your goal is short-term sales, regardless of the cost in brand reputation, it’s best to be in the credible camp. I wrote an earlier post on the subject of incredible marketing claims.

Our goal when building marketing credibility and thought leadership for clients is to help prospects and customers know, likeCredible vs incredible and trust the client. Perhaps the third of these attributes (trust) is most important. People who know you and like you will still not buy from you if they don’t trust you.  Here are six strategies to build and keep trust and credibility:

  1. Be honest.   In every situation. This is so important because once lost, trust is hard to regain. We marketers are trained to put our best foot forward and to project the most optimistic picture of our product and/or services. But beware of making statements that are so outlandish that other things you say, even if true, are questioned.
  2. Meet your commitments. I have a professional services provider I have been working with for many years regarding dozens of different matters. Yet the past six months have been one missed deadline and one unfulfilled promise after another. I reluctantly (and sadly) have to say goodbye to this provider because their credibility well has run dry.
  3. Admit your weaknesses. Again, this is hard for us marketers but it does help you connect with, and build bridges to, your client.
  4. Take the high road. Factual statements about your strengths vs. the competition are fine, but make sure you are more focused on why you are better instead of why the other company is bad. When you go on the attack, you may damage your opponent but sometimes do more damage to your own reputation. When in doubt, keep it positive!
  5. Hold your fire. Even if you take the high road, there is no guarantee that you and/or your company won’t be on the receiving end of someone else’s criticism/vitriol. As I painfully learned earlier in my career, it is usually better to let things pass than engage and escalate the situation (exactly what the critic wants you to do). Yes there are exceptions to this rule – no one likes a doormat.
  6. Be genuine. This is a tough one because when you are communicating, you have a tendency to want to please the people you are communicating to and tell them what you think they want to hear. But remember that the biggest rewards go to those who are seen as unique and special, not to those who imitate others or are always saying what’s convenient or flatters the listener. In this world of imitators and false prophets in the marketplace, a “real” person is always the preferable partner.

I’ll leave you with a really good quote from Ann Voskamp about credibility in writing: “Good writing, from my perspective, runs a lot like a visual on the screen. You need to create that kind of detail and have credibility with the reader, so the reader knows that you were really there, that you really experienced it, that you know the details. That comes out of seeing. “

I think Ann is saying that when it comes to credibility, seeing is believing. People with marketing credibility give their supporters (and their detractors!) observable evidence that they’re up-front, honest and dependable. And they never forget that in the long-term, being credible almost always beats being “incredible”.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Christopher Ryan
Christopher Ryan is CEO of Fusion Marketing Partners, a B2B marketing consulting firm and interim/fractional CMO. He blogs at Great B2B Marketing and you can follow him at Google+. Chris has 25 years of marketing, technology, and senior management experience. As a marketing executive and services provider, Chris has created and executed numerous programs that build market awareness, drive lead generation and increase revenue.


  1. Great article.

    I think credibility is more of building a lasting legacy as against incredible claims primarily focused on one big sale (which will dry up faster than it came).

    Thank you, Ryan, for sharing.

  2. Very nicely said, Christopher
    Whenever my broker says the stock is going to double I find his reasons not reasonable. I guess, as you say you have to be credible to be incredible

  3. Very good and realistic article. Credibility is the most important factor in marketing. I really appreciate this posting.

  4. In this sense of the word, I would rather stay away from “incredible” and come across as being “credible”. People tend to gravitate to speakers and companies that have taken being honest to a high art form. Sure, a speaker may not look like much, but he or she was chosen to represent a company or organization because of their knowledge and presentation skills- not their dazzle-dazzle or good looks!

    Giving potential clients, guests, customers, etcetera the facts and information they need in a credible manner – understandable and concise with a bit of entertaining flair – is the way to reach them. “Crazy Eddie” hype tends to turn me off, and I am quite certain others feel the same way, so lead people to decisions by respecting their intelligence and they will most likely come to you when they want information.

    Keep it simple, make it fun!

  5. Credibility is definitely an experience foundation, i.e. a core or basic requirement for building relevance and trust. That said, if a supplier can both overpromise value and overdeliver value to customers, the likelihood of creating a long-term positive experience memory and downstream behavior increase exponentially.

  6. I appreciate the great comments on my article. Lisa’s point about the need to be “understandable and concise with a bit of entertaining flair” is right on target. And Michael’s comment about credibility as an experience foundation and basic requirement for building relevance and trust should be internalized by every marketing and sales professional.

  7. Here is an example. Is it credible or incredible?

    USPs of Diabalife:

    DiabaLife is an invention in Diabetes Care. The USPs of DiabaLife includes:
    · Invention in Diabetes care
    · First time in India
    · Research based & Miracle Product
    · 100% Stabilised Allicin
    · Made of 100% Veg Capsule
    · UK GRAS Certified
    · Non GMO ingredients
    · Patented Formula
    · UK GMP certified ingredients
    · Confirmed by EJNR
    · Approved by MHRA
    · No Competition
    · World Wide Presence
    · Complete Natural & Herbal formulation with No side-effects

  8. Gautam, I believe the USP is a blend of credible and incredible. There are lots of credible proof points (e.g. 100% veg capsule) and also incredible statements (e.g. “Miracle Product”). In the B2B world, when you make incredible claims, the reader usually discounts even the credible claims. This is why we usually stay away from the “Greatest thing since sliced bread” type statements with our clients.

  9. This is an interesting question about sales semantics. Incredible is not an antonym of credible. In marketing communications, deciding between credibility and incredibility might be a false choice. When making product claims, I think your first recommendation, be honest, is an appropriate and achievable guideline.

    Industry and product context usually dictate the level of incredibility or “wow factor.” As a customer, I find “wow” off-putting in pharmaceutical and financial services advertising. But for other products, “wow” – honest wow – is a vital competitive tool. Remember the famous Ginsu Knife infomercial that showed the implement slicing easily through an tin can, and being used to chop wood? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wzULnlHr8w). Normal people don’t use a kitchen knife for those purposes, but the ads contributed to sales of two to three million units, according to Wikipedia (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginsu).

    All marketers should consider incredible claims as a tactic. When it’s honest, it can work very well.

  10. Thanks for the comments Andrew. Agree that a “wow factor” is important and provable incredible claims can boost marketing success. But if you have to choose between being credible or incredible, the best choice is to come across as credible. Marketers who lose their “credibility”while making incredible (and unbelievable) statements will pay a price over time. Guatam’s comment provided a great example of this. Bottom line: be incredible, but not at the expense of your credibility.

  11. This discussion would be more meaningful if we could settle on a definition of incredible when it comes to marketing claims. I think that’s pretty hard to determine. For marketers, Job #1 is to differentiate their product or service by making it distinctive or remarkable. If that means prospective consumers perceive the messaging as incredible, to me that doesn’t seem a bad thing – as long as it’s honest, as you have pointed out. I’m reluctant to generalize, but I can’t think of a single marketing professional or advertising executive who became successful by being cautiously credible. Their skills are proven when they demonstrate what sets them apart. Customers want to know that, too. If that seeps into “incredible,” that’s a risk I’ll take any day.

    The bullet items you’ve cited above are all examples of unsupportable claims (with the exception of the 4th one, which could be honest. I don’t have enough information). They also appear dishonest. Again, that’s not the same as incredible. When the first iPhone was released, it was an incredible product – at least to me. If you work in Apple Marketing, why be tepid?

    Further, being credible doesn’t necessarily equate to being ethical. Many marketers isolate and extract facts from credible studies, and then use them for self-promotion. “63% of purchasing executives are planning to use XYZ.” Seems like a significant majority! Let’s suppose that’s a credible fact from a study. But by presenting this statistic devoid of context – a common practice – the reader doesn’t receive a truer picture. Say, that last year the ratio was 75%, or that the percentage was derived from a listing of eight possibilities, and XYZ was cited by 63%, but mostly ranked toward the bottom. There are infinite examples.

    Author Jordan Ellenberg refers to this technique as statistical malpractice: The numbers given are technically correct, credible, or factual. But they are also highly misleading. I see it every day.


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