If brands were honest...

If brands were honest…

Marketing magazine recently carried an interesting piece entitled ‘Face it, your consumers hate you’ which talked about rising consumer distrust of advertising and marketing.  It quoted a survey by the brand agency Promise, which found “consumers are ready to assume the worst about brands, and have fallen out of love with them.”

I’m not surprised.  Back in February, I posted a blog arguing the case for a return to more ‘moral marketing’ (awful phrase, but I haven’t thought of a better one yet), as consumers are getting increasingly fed up with bad behaviour in business, politics and society.  The tide is, indeed, turning.

Let’s face it, advertising (et al) has always been pretty annoying for most people.  The difference now, though, is that digital media allows advertisers to invade people’s ‘personal space’ like never before.  There’s a big difference between walking blindly past a billboard and an advertising message popping up on your Facebook page.

So to be liked (and not just in the Facebook sense of the word), brands have to be honest and be on their best behaviour.  Think of advertising on Social Media like being invited to visit someone’s home.

The original, basic premise that a brand’s communications need to be built on truth is more important than ever.  Brands that promise a wonderful customer experience and then fail to deliver are now quickly exposed.  It’s too easy to realise that your terrible experience is not unique, or just your bad luck – it’s how they treat all their customers.

Sue Unerman (CSO at MediaCom) has just published a book entitled ‘Tell the truth! Honesty is your most powerful marketing tool’.  I whole-heartedly agree.  Sue argues that in a few years, we’ll look back on the “art of spin as a quaint anachronism”.

She’s right, but actually, advertising has been getting more honest as society has evolved and consumers have got savvier.  From the snake oil salesmen of the 1800s, to the Mad Men days of ‘smoking makes you glamorous’ through to those (empty) promises that a particular car/chocolate bar/airline would make you richer, sexier and more successful (step forward the 1980s)…  All now consigned to the dustbin of history.

So now it’s time for another step-change.  The advent of Social Media means there’s no place to hide.  Brands must be honest, or die.