A couple of days ago we took a little glimpse into the concept of honest marketing. This method of marketing has been around for decades despite being slightly unconventional. Very few companies have been valiant enough to relinquish the standard book of marketing and test the waters of honest marketing. Understandably so. For those in the marketing world, we’ve been taught and conditioned to travel down the narrow passage of persuading the customer. We do and say whatever it takes to sell a product or service even if it means treading the waters of deception.
Honest marketing is an entirely different approach. The operative word in all of this is honest. How many times have we heard the phrase, “honesty is the best policy?” When you’re honest, you build trust. People will buy from people they trust. They’ll utilize the services they trust. As a company, you want to be profitable, however, are you willing to jeopardize a customer’s trust for the mere sake of raking in a little short term revenue? When you’re honest, you are putting the customer’s overall experience first.
How is it possible to incorporate the little used, dynamic strategy of honest marketing and still come out ahead?
1. Ditch the deception. Your product or service isn’t going to be for everyone. Regardless of how much you spend on advertising, inflate claims, brag, or use the power of persuasion, there will be some who have no use for your product or they’re just not interested in what you have to offer. You’re not going to convince a lifelong vegetarian to try your steak and cheese pizza. You won’t convert a java junkie into a fresh steeped tea aficionado. Speak to your target audience and focus less on those who are most unlikely to buy or use your services.
2. Admit your shortcomings. Putting your best foot forward isn’t always the best approach. Not long ago, Domino’s was falling off the charts. Customers weren’t happy with the pizza and complained the crust was bland and the sauce “tasted like Ketchup.” Instead of denying and vilifying the complaints, Domino’s admitted to not putting their best food forward and immediately launched their brutally honest campaign. The company made their Domino’s Pizza Turnaround public and began rebuilding. Admitting fault proved to be nothing short of successful. If your product or service has a weakness or downside, let it be known. Keep your customers updated on what you’re doing to fix or improve it.
3. Poke fun at yourself. A little humor and self-deprecation goes a long way. My favorite breakfast place is a hole in the wall. The food is all homemade right down to the imperfectly shaped English muffins. The owner will be the first to admit his plated fare won’t make the cover of Epicurious. He’s right, but it doesn’t have to. The food speaks for itself. On a larger scale, when the Volkwagen Beetle made an appearance, they realized it wasn’t eye candy. The company didn’t mask that and made its not-so-beautiful appearance the focus of their Classic VW Beetle ad campaigns. Another example is ugli, the not so attractive office building located in London.
4. Admit you’re not the best. Using the term “the best” in any marketing campaign is misleading and you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ve set the bar too high, the customer walks in having high expectations and, in return, you’re going to let a lot of people down. The best cup of coffee to one person could be considered the worst by another. So, already, you’re breaking the customer’s trust. Admitting you don’t have the best cup of coffee doesn’t mean your product isn’t good. You’re simply being honest. And with that, you’re also building confidence. You have great coffee and can make a mean caramel swirl latte. However, you’re not the best.
5. Keep it real. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Stay true to your product or service. If you’re not going to offer a wider variety or upgrades in the future, let it be known. In today’s world, people are immune to the hype, gimmicks, inflated egos and illusions. When you eliminate that from your marketing campaigns, you’re staying true to your product or service. Customers take notice to that.