Truthfulness in Marketing – Oxymoron?

by Sonja van den Bosch

Truthfulness in Marketing – Oxymoron?

On the surface, truthfulness and marketing might seem like strange bedfellows. By its traditional nature marketing is there to push products, services, and messages. To drive desire and demand. To manipulate, cajole, seduce and persuade. With such an agenda how could marketing be viewed as anything other than disingenuous?

We’ve always championed authentic truthful marketing that honestly reflects the core purpose of the clients we work with paired with their customers’ needs. For marketing to be strategic and practical, not to mention aligned with our own values, we see truthfulness as a non-negotiable when it comes to driving significant long-term outcomes rather than the short-term quick fix a gimmicky campaign might offer.

Increasingly businesses are finding they have little choice in the matter as well. Today’s connected customer has wised up. According to the 2019 Edelmen Trust Barometer only 52% of global respondents trust businesses, and overwhelmingly we’re in search of truth in a world now overrun with fake news and slick product placement. Not only are we more cynical but we also have the means to push back and be heard if we don’t like what we see.

Faking it isn’t making it

This cynicism is not without cause. Artificial Intelligence (AI), along with its trusty automation and chatbot sidekicks, has dominated digital marketing trend forecasts for the past few years. Technology has completely changed the way we are able to interact and communicate but it has also generated great unease and uncertainty around knowing with confidence what’s real vs what’s not. For example, how confident are you that you could tell a fake video from a real one?

When anyone can create and distribute fake content it’s little wonder that there’s a growing insistence for brands to deliver truth and authenticity (even though it’s less clear exactly how such “authenticity” is determined). Peter Minnium put it beautifully In a recent article for Marketing Land: “Thanks to the internet, consumers are savvier than ever before. They want brands to respect their intelligence and alleviate their anxiety about misinformation by presenting themselves honestly and consistently. Paradoxically, the era of fake news is also one of truth.”

Humans, not robots

At Twinlife Marketing, our marketing consultants and I always say “being truthful, and truthful communication in marketing, is based on a human to human connection even when technology is being used.”

Humans are emotionally driven with an innate need to belong and be connected. Indeed, on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution it is the most human qualities that will be prized – creativity, emotional intelligence, innovation, communication, problem-solving, agility (Workforce of the future: the competing forces shaping 2030, PwC)

Truthfulness in marketing works more now than ever because it fosters an emotional, human connection between your business and your customers.

Speaking truth in your marketing: 2 simple steps

Step 1: Define what authenticity looks like for your brand.

What are your values? How do you act and interact with your customers? What words would you want used – or conversely NOT used – in association with your brand? Your brand is your promise to your customers, it must be believable and you need to be able to consistently deliver on it. Defining authenticity for your brand will help everyone in your business stay true to purpose, empowered to be ambassadors for your brand, and ensure that crucial consistency is achieved – across all communications and your customer experience.

Step 2: Know your audience and focus on forging a genuine connection with them.

Who are they? What’s going on in their world? What need are you fulfilling or what problem are you genuinely solving for your them? If you haven’t had an honest conversation or invited feedback from your customers recently then now is the time to make it a priority. You may be surprised by the stories they share and the language they use, which you can then incorporate in your marketing messages. The simple act of listening – with an intention to understand and not necessarily defend or respond – helps show your customers how much you value them, often leading to increased enthusiasm for your brand. Handling customer criticism with grace and honesty is also a golden opportunity to build credibility. Few things will test what you truly stand for more, and how well you “walk your talk” – potentially turning a poor situation into a positive one. Lastly, but often top of mind when it comes to being visible in the digital space, the more you honestly appeal to your audience the less you need be concerned with algorithms according to Sprout Social. Instead of trying to “game” the system, keep it real – focus on the person, not the technology, and specifically those who will be interested in what you have to offer.

Truthfulness in marketing goes to the very heart of where your brand and your customers overlap. Far from being an oxymoron, truthful marketing is a powerful means by which you can build trust, rapport, and credibility with your customers. It results in true engagement and it sets the stage for meaningful, long-term customer relationships. No BS, no gimmicks and no spin. With truthfulness as the scaffold marketing becomes easier – and it will be more enjoyable as well!

Being truthful, inspirational and practical are Twinlife Marketing’s core values. To find out how you can get better outcomes from your marketing based on these principles, please get in touch. We’d love to share our insights and experiences with you.

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2 Comments

  1. Agree! Agree! Agree!
    That’s why I love working with you.

  2. Thank you Karen!

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THOUGHTS FROM THE HEART

Inspirational marketing is about being true to yourself, being aligned with your core values and doing something you truly believe in and are passionate about. It is about creating meaningful relationships with everyone you encounter. It is about thoughts from the heart.

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