Basic RGBIt was, to paraphrase, not the best of times. But it served to remind me that, when it comes to marketing, talk is cheap; and the experience delivered is as eloquent a marketing message as there is.

We were moving, and Dave was selling the services of a moving company.

His pitch struck all the right chords. Deep experience — he’d orchestrated hundreds of moves just like ours. He spoke of transparency through out the process. And partnership in the midst of upheaval.

Dave the Sales Guy was personable, passionate and persuasive.

And the minute he had a done-deal, not only did he disappear, but almost none of what he promised squared with what we experienced. There was constant confusion over timing and terms. And endless excuses that focused on their processes and challenges.

In the end, Dave’s bid — theoretically born of deep experience — wasn’t close — barely 65% of the final cost.

Given a little time I have to concede that the execution of the move itself — getting stuff from one place to the next — was pretty good. Turns out the practitioners actually knew what they were doing.

But the experience the company delivered at every other turn did not live up to the promise to ease our pain. The marketing and sales pitch had simply been smoke and mirrors — soft focus and photoshop.

Promises are a dime a dozen. Better. Faster. More for your money. Service after the sale. Client-centered.

But does anyone believe the claims? Or has the pitch simply become noise?

The Second Mover

When, based on personal experience, someone recommends a product or service, the message has a shot at rising above the noise, and connecting.

A couple of weeks after our adventure a new neighbor was moving in next to us. The moving van of a brand different from the one we’d used boldly displayed a company name, logo and service slogan.

Referencing the slogan that appeared on the side of the truck, I asked the new neighbor whether it bore any resemblance to reality.

She gushed with praise. The best. Worked their tails off. This was her second time to use them; and she would call them the next time.

And though she used no clever marketing copy or campaign slogan, I became an instant believer.

In a marketplace where everyone can produce a message and become a broadcaster, the claims are ubiquitous. But word-of-mouth remains the coveted gold standard. We hear the ads — even remember some of the lines, but we don’t much believe the promise.

Doubt this? How often do you remember creative copy but struggle to recall the product, service or company?

But a voice of experience can change the discussion.

Want to cultivate a brand promise that has long-term viral qualities? Deliver an experience consistent with your promise. (And watch the rest of your marketing and advertising efforts suddenly deliver a much better ROI.)