Do marketing pros have an honesty problem?

Most people agree that lying is improper, but marketers are accustomed to fudging the facts to persuade audiences. However, today’s consumers are more skeptical than ever.

Honesty in marketing

It’s quite common to be dishonest as children from time to time. It’s a behavior most people outgrow. After all, deep down, we all know it’s wrong.

That is, unless you work in marketing.

Although marketing pros like to believe they follow honest practices, chances are they’re guilty of stretching the truth in some way. For example, you might have used dubious statistics to sell a product, made a grand claim and then refined it in the small print—or even just kept a customer or client in the dark until the problem “resolves itself.”

Due to practices such as these, customers are having a hard time trusting organizations. In fact, less than half of customers believe in—or trust—advertising. Furthermore, around two thirds of consumers in the U.S. don’t trust large businesses to “do the right thing.”

Historically, this wouldn’t have been a problem as dialogues between companies and customers were very one-sided. Typically, the organization disseminated a message and the recipient absorbed it without question.

Social media networks have changed that. The message can now be critiqued, challenged, and opposing views can take prevalence. Consumers can now seek a second opinion. In fact, more than 60 percent of individuals read reviews online before deciding whether to make a purchase.

Authenticity is one of the most important buying decisions for customers. If someone feels lied to, it’s almost certain they will vent their grievances online—causing additional problems for that organization.

Why it’s time to be honest

Honesty really is the best policy when it comes to attracting and retaining customers. Therefore, the only way communicators can achieve this is to be transparent. Unfortunately, this isn’t something which can be improved overnight as trust takes time and hard work to accomplish. For an example of how this is possible, just look at Domino’s Pizza.

Around a decade ago, the pizza delivery company was struggling. With customers joking the products tasted ‘like cardboard’ and sales plummeting, executives needed to do something big. Therefore, they did something which at the time must have seemed like madness.

They agreed with their customers.

Launching a campaign giving consumers a say on everything—from their recipes to regular deals—Domino’s decided to focus on being as transparent as possible. This bold move paid off and it arguably saved the business. As well as seeing impressive growth, their stock price greatly increased from $2.61 in 2008 to $172.62 in 2016.

Why it’s hard to be honest

Becoming more honest sounds quite straightforward but usually requires a huge culture shift. For example, instead of telling customers what you think they want to hear, focus on regularly achieving reasonable promises. When a mistake happens, don’t attempt to cover it up. Recognize the incident happened and promote your plan to resolve it.

Adopting a culture of honesty requires buy-in from every part of your organization. Yet, the benefits are well-worth the investment. Just remember that, with seemingly almost every person having access to a smartphone at all times, companies will struggle to conceal information or pretend to be something else.

Therefore, the time to adopt a culture of honesty is now. Otherwise, you will eventually pay the price.

Tom Chapman is a publishing specialist at CandidSky.

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