Winning Over the Cynics

That’ll never do what it says.

This problem is too hard to solve.

That can’t be true.

Yeah, right!

It seems we’ve all become bilingual overnight, and that new language is cynicism.

Actually, cynical points of view aren’t new at all. But from online news sources to advertising, it’s clear that across the population, our level of cynical-ness has skyrocketed in recent years.

Now, I’m a believer that cynicism in small doses keeps businesses and professionals on their toes. I’ve been known to call upon a good bit of sarcasm myself. But too much of that pessimistic attitude can be bad for your health! (Don’t believe me? Lucky—or unlucky—for you, here’s the study.)

Health impact aside, as cynicism grows, so does the challenge to overcome it. That goes for journalists and marketers alike.

In trying to build a brand, the problem most squarely rests in the digital realm. We swim daily in a sea of headlines, online ads and social posts that can be written and distributed by literally anyone in the world with access to a keyboard and a Twitter/Google/Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat account. We’ve all likely been burned by clickbait before. I know I have. So who wants to make that same mistake twice?

Millennial audiences—the marketer’s elusive golden ticket—speak cynicism fluently. According to a recent Washington Post article, that’s an unintended but fast-spreading symptom of their “digital nativeness.” As one person is quoted in the article, “There are very few occasions when I think that something is completely true on the internet.”

It’s this innate doubt that makes it increasingly hard for us to both create and spot authentic messages. Brands (be it business or personal) have to work harder to cut through the noise not only to be heard but to be believed.

Overcoming cynicism isn’t easy but the most effective antidote is also the most unassuming—good communication. Keep your message simple. Choose your words wisely. And make it meaningful.

That last one is the kicker … cynics know when you haven’t done your homework. So take the time to understand your audience and their attitudes, and you’ll have a much better shot at speaking their language.