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McDonald’s ego problem

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Social proof is important.

We all know it.

Put up some “featured by” logos, some testimonials, some stats about your business.

Boom, instant credibility.

But, really?

Is social proof worth adding just for the sake of adding it?

In short, no.

Like in most things we do with copy and UX, there’s a method to the madness.

Even the big guys sometimes get it wrong.

The other day I was watching the Seinfeld live show he did in the 90s right after ending his infamous TV series.

One of the sketches is about social proof.

Or better, about the impropriate use of proof. By none other than McDonald’s.

Apparently in the 90s (not sure they still do it tho), they were putting out ads promoting how many burgers they sold.

Something like “89 billions sold”.

To which the great Seinfeld appropriately would reply: “okay, I’ll have one”.

No in a “omg yes, you’ve got proof, give me one, NOW”, but rather as in “okay, fine, whatever, give me one”.

His problem is something you should be cognizant of, even if you’re in SaaS or ecommerce.

They were using social proof that didn’t fit their positioning and audience.

Seinfeld explains it in a fantastic way when he goes:

“I would love to meet the Chairman of the Board of McDonald’s just say “look we all get you’ve sold a lot of hamburgers whatever the hell that number is. Just put up a sign McDonald’s we’re doing very well”. I don’t need to hear about every goddamn one. …their ultimate goal is to have cows just surrendering voluntarily. Showing up at the door “we’d like to turn ourselves in, we see the sign, we realise we have very little chance out there”.

Social proof, any kind of proof, should be used to prove what’s been said, based on how you’re seen in your market and on your audience’s awareness level.

When used the wrong way, you just risk being seen as needy and begging for attention.

As Seinfeld says “This is really insecure isn’t?”.

So next time you want to use social proof on your site or in your emails, ask yourself “Does my audience need to hear this”?

In every one of my projects I always carefully select each piece of social proof. Either it earns its place on the page, or it gets replaced or taken out.

If you want to learn how to do it, let’s talk.

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