According to Pete Blackshaw, credibility in today's marketing environment is the product of six core drivers:
They're discussed in his book, "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000."
Blackshaw quotes Forrester Research, which found that customers trust other customers far more than they trust companies or brands. That's why it's great when Land's End and L.L.Bean guarantee every product, and why social media are so useful.
Authenticity is when a company is "perceived to be real and sincere, consistent and genuine". Peet's Coffee has grown because it's perceived as less corporate than Starbuck's. Peet's tests the beans itself, and makes its roasters make a 10-year employment commitment.
Transparency means people can easily get the facts about the company. Nike, McDonald's, and Coca-Cola make it easy to get data. They're open about their businesses.
Listening to customers has always been a big part of sales, and the social media make it easy for a company to learn how customers feel. Home Depot learned some lessons when it got too "corporate". The best information is when the company isn't in control --- on Facebook pages, independent blogs and sites.
Once you hear your customers, you have to respond. You have to demonstrate you'll go the distance to make things right. A change, a new policy, whatever is required should be made public. That's what Jamba Juice did when accused of using milk in its non-dairy smoothies.
Affirmation means if a company says or does something, the story is the same wherever the consumer looks. If not, credibility is shot.
The upshot? After years of telling people what's good about a product, we now have to go further and give a customer a reason to believe us. And actions speak louder than words.
Of course, that's one of the basic principles of advertising. Maybe we should go back to it before it's too late.