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Proof: What it is and why it’s important

A company called Havas Media tracks brands in an annual report called the Meaningful Brands Survey. Havas has been doing this research since 2008. In the 2019 edition, the number of brands people considered “meaningless”—indicating that they couldn’t care less if the brand disappeared—rose to 77% from the previous year’s 73%, a 4% jump. Things seem to getting worse, not better.

According to this survey, what makes a brand meaningful is the successful delivery of the functional, personal and collective benefits people expect from it. In other words, the brand does what it says. It delivers what it promises. Its actions reflect its words.

In this series, we’ve talked about things like purpose, promise and positioning. Some of these concepts are difficult to comprehend, but proof is simple.

What is proof?

Proof is the reason to believe in your brand promise. Proof points provide the experiential evidence that you’re telling the truth about who you are and what you have to offer. They show you’re making a promise you can keep. Your proof points might involve the unique skills you bring to the table, your proprietary technology or the way you treat customers. For example, if you’re promising customers they’ll save money by using your product, you’ll need proof. How will you help them save money?

Proof needs to be demonstrated

Let’s take a look at the brand we created in an earlier article entitled Activating your brand strategy. We created a fictional product called Rheumalert, a monitoring device for people who suffer from arthritis. Rheumalert’s promise is “Don’t give pain a chance.” So how does the product do that? Some of the proof points are:

  • It’s always on: As long as the device is turned on, it delivers data.
  • It’s always accurate: The data is real-time and on time.
  • It’s always adjustable: You can change the settings to respond to different levels of pain severity.
  • It’s easy to use: The user interface is accessible and easy to understand.

Even though these points sound like proof, they still need to be demonstrated. This activity can take many forms. You could provide patient, healthcare practitioner (HCP) and/or pharmacist testimonials. You could create demonstration videos. You could offer research data or reputable third-party validation. You could provide pharmacists and HCPs with easy patient onboarding kits. Most important, you could track the device’s performance among patients, HCPs and pharmacists, and use the data to support your claims. Performance tracking also allows you to make adjustments and improvements as necessary.

A real-life example of proof: 23andme

One company that provides a good example of using proof to sell its brand is the DNA testing kit 23andme. The company offers two products: an Ancestry Report and a Health Report. The latter costs twice as much as the former, because it also provides data on health predispositions, wellness, carrier status and traits. Its website is loaded with proof points.

To support its accuracy claims, 23andme boasts the following:

  • Our Genetic Health Risk and Carrier Status reports meet criteria for being scientifically and clinically valid.
  • All saliva samples are processed in labs in the United States that meet local regulations.
  • Our kit is manufactured in accordance with current Good Manufacturing Practices.
  • Genotyping is a well-established and reliable platform for analyzing DNA.
  • Our team of scientists and medical experts uses a robust process to develop reports to ensure validity.
  • Ancestry percentages are derived from our powerful, well-tested system that provides you with ancestry
    estimates down to the 0.1%.

The company presents itself as simply as possible with a clean and clear website. It uses both text and imagery sparingly—making it very easy for people to understand what the company is, how it works and what benefits it delivers. To support its ease of use, the company states the process is as simple as spitting into a tube, putting it in the mail and waiting for the results: “It’s just saliva. No blood. No needles.” In other words, it tells you exactly as much as you need to know and not a bit more.

Word of mouth is powerful proof, and 23andme is also very good at letting clients tell their stories. Customer testimonials are often the most reliable sources of credibility and trust for any brand, and there are plenty on the 23andme website.

Proof really makes all the difference

Proof is the difference between a good brand and a bad one. It’s the only way to tell whether what you are talking about is the real deal or just another false claim. Proof points are ultimately the foundation your brand is built on. Without them, you will quickly become one of the 77% of brands people don’t care about.

Read more in this series

Read more about the 6Ps of branding, including: