Tom & BookTom Wanek, author of the Marketing Beyond Advertising blog and former e-commerce entrepreneur has just published his latest book: Currencies That Buy Credibility

As a fellow Wizard of Ads partner, I had the good fortune of seeing him develop the material for this book over the last few years and of strong-arming him into an interview on his incredibly original approach to Signaling Theory and marketing.

The transcribed Question and Answers are below:

Q: First, let me say how much I love the 6 Currencies framework for thinking about credibility builders.  And in thinking about your framework, it occurred to me that the indispensable element in all the currencies – the common thread – is the idea of vulnerability.  You’re credibility is directly tied to how vulnerable you make yourself by your willingness to place one or more of those 6 currencies on the line.

Have I gone off on the deep end here, or is vulnerability really the key element behind the currencies – the idea that you have to make yourself vulnerable before a cynical audience will take you seriously?

TOM: [Laughs] No, you haven’t skipped off the deep end just yet.

Vulnerability is certainly another way to look at it. In the book, I discuss resources that you can risk or spend to purchase credibility. And obviously vulnerability is an inherent part of risk.

Jeff, you’ll also appreciate that my inspiration for the six currencies comes from Signaling Theory – which observes how animals communicate using bizarre behaviors and physical traits. Biologists commonly refer to the “cost” of sending a particular signal.  And in many cases, this requires that animals place themselves in vulnerable situations.

Q: Would you draw a parallel between this and a post by Michele Miller on Marketing to Women?  Michele said that although women WANT connection, the way to allow connection to develop is to PROVIDE women with control.  In other words, give her control by making yourself VULNERABLE to her, and then she’ll form a CONNECTION.   Do you see that message as being parallel to Currencies that Buy Credibility?

TOM: Yes, Michele is recommending that business owners invest the currency of Power and Control. And her recommendation is spot on.

It seems that most business owners want to control the customer relationship. But this controlling behavior breeds the habitual corporate-speak of hype and chest-thumping clichés that consumers have come to loathe and reject.

In the book, I provide two case studies that demonstrate how companies boost their credibility and authenticity by investing Power and Control into their customer relationships.

Q: Although everything in marketing is astonishingly context dependent, if I admit that going into this, can I ask you a non-contextual question?  What currencies seem to work better than others?  When it comes down to brass tacks and you’re employing these strategies on behalf of your clients, are there some techniques or currencies that are your “go to” stuff?  Or do you use them all about the same?

TOM: Generally speaking, the more you risk, the more believable your message becomes.

But as you know, consumers do not make decisions in isolation. Rather, they compare the differences between their available options.

For these principles to truly work, your credibility investment must reinforce your message. And you won’t be able to purchase credibility unless you stay true to yourself.  In other words, if your business can’t support what you’re signaling, then don’t send that particular signal. Redirect your resources.

Q: Are there some currencies that are over-used? Are there some that are under-used?  If so, might there be an advantage to “cornering” the market on their use?

TOM: No, I believe all currencies are underused.

That said, we do see material wealth invested most frequently in the form of warranties and guarantees, but this does not mean the other currencies are any less effective. Again, context is everything.

Thanks so much, Tom.  I can’t wait to get my hands on the book.