The majority of people believe “truth in advertising” doesn’t exist in this day and age. So most quickly jump to the conclusion that all advertising is false advertising. That all companies and marketers use dishonest trickery to lure them into buying a product or service that they don’t need, want or is not what it is portrayed to be. This is not really so, sort of. Most companies take a creative license when marketing or advertising a product. Let’s look at Burger King, as an example. They advertise the Whopper and it looks amazing. Then you put it up against the real thing, side by side and it’s not so amazing and actually a sad comparison. Would you call this false advertising, creative license or is it OK? If you sit back and think about it, would you rather see the burger on the right in their Ads? Would you say to yourself, “Wow that burger looks pretty pathetic, but I really want to go get one”? My guess is probably not. So is their Ad deceptive? You be the judge.

Truth in Advertising

Why do so many companies make their products look better in Ads than they actually look in reality? I think the answer to this question is pretty obvious. Look at the burgers above.

Marketing in general leaves a huge gaping black hole when it comes to the claims companies make and the image they try and portray. Great brands are built by the story they that they show and tell. Companies that are good story tellers always work within the limitations of their creative license. They push their story to the edge of believability.

Truth be told, it’s really not the brands story at all, it’s the consumers perception of the brand, so the story is really the consumers story. In the end, it’s the consumer that needs to convince themself that your product or service is really and truly the best around and the one they need and want. When it is Too Good to be True is a great article on this topic.

Why is a $2600 Brooks Brothers suit any better than a $200 Men’s Warehouse suit? If both suits are blue and use similar fabrics, what makes one worth $2400 or 13 times more than the other? Is the fabric or construction that much better? Is it worth the extra cost? Is it the perception of the consumer that plays a huge role in deciding which suit to buy or is it their wallet talking?

Let’s look at car rental companies for a minute. In the 1960’s when you needed to rent a car, you went to Hertz. They were the clear choice. At the time, Avis was their main competitor and trailed way behind. In a meeting with Avis’s advertising agency, Robert Townsend, who was the President of Avis at the time, was asked the normal questions an Ad agency will ask when trying to come up with ideas for a new campaign. They asked him “Do you have better cars, more location, cheaper rates”? The answer was the same for all, NO. Although in his response he said, “But we do try harder”. The agency had what they needed. They created one of the most powerful brand campaigns ever produced from a challenger. The ad “Avis Is Only No. 2, We Try Harder” was honest, sincere and showed that they knew they were number 2 but were going to try harder for your business. Avis went from not being profitable in 1962 and only having an 11% market share to being profitable within a year. By 1966 Avis had a 35% market share.

So, what does this all mean? It boils down to two simple aspects, honesty and trust. You have to believe that the company you are dealing with is honest with you. If you think they are full of shit or just simply lying to you, you will never do business with them. You also must trust them. Without trust, the transaction will never occur. Most consumers have a built in human trait that will make them walk away if there is no trust. When a company is distrusted, 61% of their customers will believe negative information after hearing it one time, whether it is true or not. Conversely, when a company is trusted, more than 82% of their customers will believe positive information after hearing it one time.

Why does it matter? Because we buy and recommend products and services based on a company’s reputation. This is based on existing customers experiences with the company and their customer service, and perceived through the display of high ethical standards.

At Email Answers, we deal with clients who push the envelope on a daily basis. We look at the advertising and marketing of our company much differently. The foundation of Email Answers was built upon trust, honesty, integrity, transparency and putting our customers first. I know this must sound like we’re blowing our own horn, but were not. Making sure every single customer is happy and satisfied is the most important service our company provides and every single employee is aware of this fact. We offer, what I like to refer to as “Fanatical Customer Service & Support”.

Every month Email Answers sends out customer satisfaction survey’s for the services we provide. Unlike most companies, we actually publish the results of this survey, in all its glory and provide insight into the good, the bad and the ugly. You may think to yourself, this is crazy. Why would a company share every single customer experience? What about the bad ones or the really bad ones? I think the answer to this question is simple, be transparent and always try to improve. Take a moment and look at what our customers think of us and analyze our aggregate reviews. Judge for yourself how our customers perceive the service we provide.

Ethics in advertising and marketing is a complex issue. What one person considers ethical, another may consider unethical. Every day advertising professionals and business owners must make complex decisions about what can and should be said in advertisements and how they choose to market their company and products. Clients want to make the strongest claims possible for their brands, but the thin line between the possible and the unethical must be constantly negotiated extremely delicately.