Honest Marketing vs. Global Citizenship
Marketing’s newest trend is honest marketing but is it enough just to be honest?
There’s a fantastic slideshare by Velocity out there that talks about the importance of honest marketing, which is essentially being transparent and vulnerable with your shortfalls. The idea is that by being honest about your product, you can win over customers because it seems more authentic and therefore, more trustworthy.
We can do better
Honest marketing is a great practice, but you have to go beyond just being transparent. You have to have integrity and your marketing should provide value. Integrity, in essence, is not being forced into honesty but offering it up first. Take for example the McDonald’s Our Food. Your Questions. Campaign. This campaign gained a lot of praise for its courage to answer the critical questions their trollers were using to defame their brand. Their goal was to take horrible claims, such as the McNuggets are made from pink slime, and show that their products weren’t as bad as these trollers made them out to be. While their effort to be transparent is appreciated, it came off as being more defensive and in that sense, dishonest about its intentions. The sole beneficiary of this campaign is McDonald’s not its customers.
So what should McDonald’s have done? Brands should always have integrity in the things they say and do, even when the facts may look bad. It would have been better if McDonald’s was straight up and admitted that they aren’t the healthiest option. By admitting the truth and trying to contribute in other ways, McDonald’s would be embracing their shortfalls and providing value to the greater community. I think the millions of dollars spent on the campaign could’ve shown that the organization wasn’t just acting on protecting their profits but thinking about themselves as a global citizen.
Brands should always have integrity in the things they say and do, even when the facts may look bad.
I was at a conference a few years ago and met this inspiring single mother who started a successful mailing business. Her business helped large organizations, like hospitals and educational institutes, streamline their mail communications process. Even though it seems unlikely that a business like this could create value in its community, she was able to achieve just that. She kept fellow single working mothers in mind and provided free childcare at the office. She offered flexible schedules and an environment that was ideal for working mothers. Consequently, she garnered the most loyal employee base that one could hope for. Instead of hiding behind the fact that her staff consisted mostly of working mothers, she had the integrity to share this with her client base from the get go. She ultimately used this as a strength rather than a weakness.
For her service, she was able to go green early on, saving thousands of dollars for her customer base and seeking out alternative products that would provide a lighter carbon footprint. This naturally translated into communications with her clients and helped foster even stronger supporters and greater word of mouth. She had a triple bottom line – people, product, planet – as a measurement of success. Now, that’s a great example of an organization that demonstrates integrity and global citizenship in their work.
Honesty, Integrity and Global Citizenship
So while honesty calls for celebration, I do think it’s equally important to hold all of ourselves to higher standards other than just being honest about our shortfalls. We have to ask brands to be more responsible for their impact on the world, and start actively thinking of ways their organization can contribute to their end profits as well as the global community. Ironically, this will garner you a larger fan base that will protect your market share in the long run.
Here are three starting points:
Be Honest – Ask yourself if your brand is being completely honest with itself. Are you hiding anything that you might feel embarrassed about? Your audience is human and will relate to the vulnerability in your brand too.
Contribute Value – what is your product or service doing to better the greater community that you are a part of? No matter what your organization does, it can contribute. Think outside the box about what it can do to switch from taking and focus more on giving.
Integrity – Remember to keep your promises and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Trust is so important for a brand. When you lose trust, you lose your audience.
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