Credentials as comfort food

How does the fact that I’m travelling on the world’s biggest airline change my travelling experience? Or the world’s biggest cruise liner? How does the fact that I’m working with the world’s biggest professional services firm change what I get from the lawyer, accountant, engineer etc assigned to me? What more do I get from buying a bottle from the world’s biggest winemaker? Or a toy from the world’s biggest department store?

It makes no difference.

And yet brands love to emphasise their size or the number of countries they operate in or the projects that they’ve been involved in. They think it provides reassurance. They think it gives them a storyline. It doesn’t.

It gives them big numbers but in most cases, it says nothing at all. Credentials in my view are much over-used and much over-rated. They don’t add to the excitement that consumers feel. And, given the complexity of most corporate structures, it could be argued that they often don’t ameliorate the risk of dealing with many entities. Credentials might feel important for investors, perhaps even for staff, to know they are part of a  scale-driven entity, but at an individual customer level they are often a meaningless part of any promise and they seldom amount to proof of quality of delivery.

Roger has this phrase that sums up the use of credentials so well. So many companies, he says, are experts at writing to themselves. They find all this scale and proof remarkably comforting. It makes them feel like part of something great. It makes them feel they have something impressive to talk about.

But unless you can specificially show me how all this scale, all this wealth, all this knowledge, all these resources are focused on improving what your customers get in their day to day dealings with you, too often the gizmo presentations and the “About us” pages and the map-packed corporate profiles are just popcorn. Crunchy data – and hot air.

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