In a world full of paid social media influencers and confusing “native” ads, every buyer has become a skeptic. In his Advocamp 2016 talk, Robin Hamilton, director of UK-based agency inEvidence, delivers hard-hitting insights about how to build trust with doubtful prospects.

Using fascinating examples from human history, Robin presents the one tool brands can use to cut through the noise: storytelling. Watch the video below for all of Robin’s wisdom, or read our highlights or an abbreviated version.

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Three major takeaways of Robin’s AMP talk:

  1. “No one trusts what your company says.” The sooner you accept this, the better. Luckily, customers are hungry for trustworthy sources. You can stand out by giving them what they actually want: customer stories.
  2. Tell customer stories.” Storytelling is one of the most ancient human tendencies. Take advantage of this by painting visceral, colourful stories when you talk about your business. Prominently feature your customers’ voices, words and experiences in your marketing to add a human element.
  3. “Embrace new channels and formats for storytelling.” Robin acknowledges that it takes a bit of extra ingenuity to adapt your messaging to new formats. But ultimately, it will push you to create stories that are innovative and powerful.

The highlight reel: how customer stories make brand promises real

1:10 – Robin explains how “a love for authentic, relevant and human stories [was] hardwired into us” 400,000 years ago with the invention of fire.

2:31 – At the turn of the century, people largely believed what they were told. Why? Because it was really hard to get information. And it was even harder to share it. When Google paved the way for the Information Age, our world was radically redefined. Information became abundant and easily accessible. This allowed people to do their own research and make more informed buying decisions. As a result, “we’re more cynical. We don’t take claims at face value,” says Robin.

5:30 – Robin explains what marketers need to understand about buyers’ skepticism. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, “we trust authority, large corporations, governments less and less.” But there’s good news too: “we trust people like ourselves more and more.”

6:24 – Robin characterizes old school marketing as “selfie marketing”, because it’s so mired in self-serving messages. He explains why marketing in the 21st century needs to be customer-centric, and how big brands can play catch-up. (Hint: it requires empowering customers.)

9:49 – A lot of us are guilty of this as marketers: we aren’t “able to make [our] minds up about the hierarchy of message.” By this, Robin means that we’re so focused on cramming all of our features and benefits into our messaging that we often forget that less is more. Robin insists that instead we need to strive to “create small elegant things.” Simple stories with focused messaging are what resonate most with customers.

14:13 – Robin talks about how marketers can creatively leverage new storytelling formats, using the example of videos on smartphones. He claims that we’re living in the era of the silent movie, since many videos autoplay without sound. This means that marketers need to get inventive to make sure their videos still grab attention and impact customers, even with no audio.

16:13 – Robin summarizes the major marketing shift happening in our time, and how companies can embrace it. “The new marketing is advocate marketing,” he says. Becoming truly customer-focused is the best way for marketers to create a tidal wave of vocal advocates who will validate your messages. “In your career, the chances you get to reinvent how marketing works are almost zero,” says Robin, and he encourages us all to embrace this rare opportunity.

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