Written by Canon Wing

I teach entrepreneurs and organizations the proven action steps to stand out within their market, improve the perceived value of their business, and better connect with their audience through naming, branding, storytelling, and communication platforms.

October 28, 2020

The Superpower of Honest Persuasion

All of today’s top brands are like hometown heroes and research has shown that their superpower is honesty.

When we think of the defining characteristics of the superheroes of legends and comic books, we think of extraordinary abilities and exceptional skills. We think of an authentic, unwavering moral code that includes a willingness to take personal risks if it’s for the greater good. We think of an ally, someone who’s always in our corner and watching out for our best interests. A superhero is considered a close and trusted friend to entire cities.

A 2014 study on authentic brands, reviewed by FastCompany, revealed that the number one quality people demand of big brands is honesty, followed by not letting customers down, and acting with integrity at all times. 

That’s the profile of a superhero, if I’ve ever heard one.

FastCompany then sent out a Tweet asking people to provide their own definition of an authentic brand in 140 characters or less. They received about 12,000 responses, which included: “Says what it does, does what it says,” “True to it’s mission and values,”and “A brand that honestly divulges it’s practices, both positive and negative.”

When building your brand like a hometown, you have the opportunity to make your brand a superhero to your community of ideal individuals, and to inspire the hero that lies within them too.

We are going to discuss why Honest Persuasion is your brand’s Superpower. 

I’m going to provide you with some simple tools for using Honest Persuasion, so your brand can swoop in like a superhero, Come Out of Nowhere, and be an Inspiration to Millions.

The Three S’s for Honest Persuasion: Shared Value, Seduction, and Social Proof.

The first of the S’s is Shared Value.

Shared Value is about connecting your brand with your ideal individuals on a meaningful and emotional level. There’s only one way for your brand to get to know your customers so well, that they feel your brand shares their values, and that’s by listening. The brand that listens better, learns better. And the brand that learns better, earns better. For this reason, all of your income, will be from listening. 

When defining the Shared Value your brand has to offer, there’s a key question you need to answer for your ideal consumers: “How is this product or service in their best interest?”

There’s the truth about your product; the facts about the quality and effectiveness, and that’s important. But it’s only part of the equation. There’s a deeper truth, always. 

I’m talking about the truth your ideal individuals hold close to their hearts, the truth they dare not speak, the most deeply held vision of their own best self, living their best life.

You already know the value your product or services has to offer you, because you set out first to discover it for yourself.  Live into that value for yourself, and enthusiastically express it through everything you create, and your brand will be gifted with authenticity.  As a brand, you can’t promote a state of being that you don’t embody through everything you create. SHARE with your ideal consumers, the vulnerable truth that led you to seeking out a better way, a better life, a greater future through developing your product or service. Let your ideal individuals relate to your brand, by being vulnerable and human, and let them witness for themselves how your brand revealed your inner hero, your true value. Inspire your ideal individuals to consider your brand as a stepping stone toward becoming their own hero. Authenticity is persuasive. Enthusiasm is persuasive. Sincerity is persuasive. Honest persuasion is inspirational and compels your ideal individuals to trust your brand. Honest persuasion is trustworthy.

Aristotle once said “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.”

This brings us to the next S: Seduction.

Talk about a word that has some sorted/subjective connotations!  The first thing that popped into my mind just now, is one of the birds of paradise with the bright flouncing plumes of feathers, doing their funny little walk to show off their goods to entice the females. Honest persuasion is a bit of a dance, but dancing is fun! Choosing your brand should be fun, even if it feels like a bit of a stretch.  If we need to be seduced it’s because we aren’t quite sold on the relationship yet! There is a courtship that’s taking place, and it’s an exciting part of the journey. Growing and changing always feels like a stretch, but we know it’s good for us, especially when we can see how it’s been good for others.

When we feel seduced, what it really means is that we see something we like, and we want it for our own. Whenever a person makes a decision to purchase, they are facing certain emotional obstacles. Time, money, energy, and peer pressure are some of the most common vulnerabilities that arise when a person considers becoming a part of a brand community. These vulnerabilities are growing pains. To join your community of Brand Loyalist, your individuals will need to leave some things behind, relationships with other brands, the comfort of an old routine, a version of themselves that no longer serves their greatest good…so make the process fun. 

Vibrant. Enthusiastic. Seductive!

Seduction is what brings your ideal individual closer to your brand, and building a brand like a hometown is about coming together, and forming a community. Share with them vulnerably about the challenges you faced and they may face as well, but do it while dancing on the finish line, showcasing the value in taking the plunge, and cheering them ever onward! Let your origin story, your victory over adversity, show them they aren’t alone. Let your enthusiasm for what your brand stands for, be the siren call to moving bravely toward a greater future for themselves.

William Shakespeare once said “No Legacy is so rich as honesty.”

 Which brings us to our final S in The Three S’s of Honest Persuasion: Social Proof.

Social proof is an industry term. According to Wikipedia, social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to obtain a similar outcome from a given situation. Often in situations where we aren’t sure what to do, we will look to those who appear to know more than we do, and follow their example. Social proof is a powerful persuasion tool, and should be wielded with the integrity and sense of responsibility that you would expect from a hometown hero.

From the time we were born, we began looking outside ourselves for social cues of how to behave, and using methods of persuasion to get our needs met. At two years old, those methods very well could have included emotional manipulation, being charming, acting coy, being sneaky…it’s quite normal to experiment in these ways and test boundaries while we are formulating over our surroundings. It’s when we don’t grow out of those ways of persuasion, that we find ourselves wielding persuasion in a dishonest way. The best way to gauge how we are utilizing persuasion is to examine what kind of energy your tactics create. Moreso than any message you brand can convey, people will remember how it made them feel. Honest persuasion, rooted in transparency, empathy, and enthusiasm will create positive, hopeful, exciting, comfortable energy. 

Persuasion that is rooted in being coy, playing on a guilty conscience, sneaky wordplay, and laying on insincere charm will create a sense of urgency, inadequacy, discomfort, and discontent. This type of persuasion will work on some of the people some of the time, but only once or twice. Eventually, these brands end up like an abandoned ghost town, not a beloved hometown.

Social proof creates self-sustained momentum. When we see other people enjoying your product, have friends who are raving about your brand’s services, hear experts confirming the effectiveness and benefits of being involved with your brand, the phenomenon of Social Proof is set in motion. We are 50x more likely to buy from word of mouth advertising. 50X! That is the power of Social Proof.

Mark Twain once said “ If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Honest persuasion fears no question. Your brand is an open house, a welcoming forum, and your customers always have the floor. Social Proof creates self-sustained momentum, and when the backbone of your brand is honesty, your brand no longer needs to do all the talking. When your individuals always have the floor, you are free to always be listening…all of your brand’s income will be from listening. Use Social Proof honestly and responsibly, and Brand Loyalty will be your great reward.

Trust, compassion, and integrity can’t be faked, but it can be earned by listening and by being honest. Facts, authenticity, sincerity, and credibility…are persuasive. Identify your ideal individuals deepest truth. The one they dare not speak; their deepest held vision of their own best self. Start brainstorming ways to let them know they are not alone in harboring this desire, by sharing with them openly and honestly, about the challenges you faced and how your brand helped you overcome. 

Just be honest, and your story will be persuasive!