Marketing: If It Looks to Good to Be True, It Probably Is

Marketers, is there such a thing as honest, credible marketing? I know that I am striking a chord with marketing professionals out there who are reading this. Please know, I am a career marketer, so I am one of you.

At the heart of every marketer is someone who really wants to stretch the limit of what they can say or show to make the product or brand look better. C'mon marketers, admit it, you've stretched the truth a few times in your career to hopefully get better results, make the client happy, allow the copy to flow better or nudge the number closer to zero or closer to 100 percent. Almost all of us like to embellish a little -- it's part of our DNA as marketers, and we look for ways to make our product sell. But how far is too far?


The average person is bombarded by hundreds and sometimes even thousands of advertisements in any given day. Have you ever thought as you went through your day and saw marketing messages, how many of them were actually true? Let's take this a step further. Are there advertising mediums in your opinion that are more credible than others? These are tough questions, however, they should be considered when marketing content is produced and disseminated.

What Media Channels Are You Using For Your Marketing?

If we take a look at the most common marketing, advertising and media channels, I think we could actually come up with an educated guess as to which ones are more credible than others. I am no genie, so I can't rub a magic lamp to get the answer, but I can come up with some ideas that may trigger some thoughts in your creative marketing brain. Here's a list of 30 common channels that marketers use to get the word out where it's needed most. Is it possible to figure out which ones are the most credible and which ones aren't? What do you think?

• Web display
• Social Media
• Web re-targeting
• Broadcast TV / Cable
• Radio
• Online radio
• Digital out-of-home (DOOH)
• Billboards: Out-of-home (OOH)
• Trade show displays
• Direct mail
• Email
• Blogs
• Inbox advertising
• Text messaging
• Roadside Billboards
• Mass transit posters and boards (bus, train)
• In-seat Airplane advertising
• Newspaper
• Magazines
• Gorilla Fliers
• Shopping mall advertising
• In-Theatre advertising
• Online gaming advertising
• Branded entertainment
• Sports Arena advertising
• In-Video (pre-Rolland's post-roll videos)
• Search Engines (paid)
• Retail In-store advertising
• Taxi Cab panels
• Sponsorships

If you read this far, you're probably thinking that all of these channels listed above are all about the same on the credibility level. You're probably right. However, before I give you some facts that may surprise you, I asked this question to a marketing professional, "Is There Such a Thing as Honest Marketing?" Alice Stein, President of the American Marketing Association, Boston Chapter had this to say.

Honest marketing or what I prefer to call 'authentic marketing' is alive and well. What makes authentic marketing unique is its foundational premise of creating perceived value in the hearts and minds of consumers. Brands that are perceived as authentic are driven by purpose not just revenues.

Authentic Marketing or Not?

I really like what Alice had to say about authentic marketing. After all, if marketing was authentic all the time, this article would mean nothing. Maybe... just maybe marketing that isn't authentic doesn't have a clear strategic purpose other than just increasing revenue. Hmm.

Marketing as we know it today gets a bad rap. I have experienced throughout my career many people saying that marketers are similar to used car salesmen. I personally have nothing against used car salesmen; however, their reputation is not the one I want to be associated with for my career. They are labeled as not having a real strategic brand purpose, somewhat untruthful in presenting the facts, and they seemingly have a just go-for-the-sale mentality. Marketers in my opinion can be very authentic and real, after all, that quality yields better results in today's culture.

Fact or Fiction?

Below are two advertising channels I opted not to put in the list of 30 above.
I guess the oldest form of advertising from the earliest of times is still the most effective and trusted way to get the word out. Does that mean social networking will revert back to face-to-face interaction of visiting someone in-person instead of using Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram? -- Aah, probably not. So here goes, the most credible and least credible sources of marketing are:

Word-of-Mouth (69 percent) -- Ranked the highest for credibility
Mobile (37 percent) -- Ranked the lowest for credibility

According to this article published late last year, Nielsen surveyed consumers around the world. Many advertising channels hover in the 40-60 percent range for credibility. Does this mean only 40-60 percent of the marketers are delivering honest content? No, I don't think so. I do think customers are very savvy when it comes to marketing and they understand what sales and marketing really is. They don't want to be sold. They want to make an informed decision themselves and expect authenticity from the brand.

Marketers Be Careful

Marketers need to be very careful when they are tempted to exaggerate the truth when creating an advertising and marketing material. Remember, this is in our DNA as marketers. My suggestion for all of you who are tempted every day to stretch, squeeze, pull and tug at the truth of the facts; don't do it. Believe in the brand's attributes, trust the facts, and use your creative brain to write compelling copy, show compelling imagery and tease the prospective customer to want to buy your product. Your strategy and purpose will be evidently clear because your marketing will work the way you want it to. Additionally, choose the right advertising channel that supports your strategy. Be ethical and remember, honest marketing is the best marketing. The old adage says, "If it looks to good to be true, it probably is" -- This is so true.

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