We love getting comments on our blog. Our goal first and foremost is to start conversations and create ideas among people with different points of view, so thanks to all of you out there for participating! In fact, last week, we received a comment that inspired this post. Our commenter pointed out the importance of transparency in marketing.
We couldn’t agree more.
Disingenuous advertising is unavoidable, and it’s ruining things for the rest of us. How can we appreciate fashion magazines when models are Photoshopped to look like Bratz dolls? And is it really any better when “celebrities without make-up” grace the glossy pages? Not if their hair is in their face and they’re standing in the dark. I understand wanting to have flawless layouts and attractive people in magazines, but I want those skinny models to be real, dammit!
Of course, the chance that fashion ads will ever be honest is like the probability Lindsay Lohan will make her next court appearance. Not likely.
But for the rest of the advertising and PR world, our expectations are a little higher. We’re all tired of being lied to, cheated and scammed (looking at you, Mr. Madoff), and you’d think after the past couple of years of economic downturn, bailouts and Tiger Woods, companies would start realizing we’re not stupid. And that we have the Internet. If you’re not telling the truth, we’re probably gonna find out about it in .5 seconds because SOMEONE on Twitter is going to know what’s up. We want to know where our food is coming from, the minute details of our politicians’ pasts, and we analyze everything from Lost to Michelle Bombshell’s tattoos. There’s no hiding and no limit to our resources!
Which is why it’s important that we make the following point: No matter how progressive, unexpected or surprising your next campaign is, you can’t cheat the system. Being subversive won’t get you results – it will get you disrespect. A performance marketing act or protest where you pretend you’re something you’re not will prove ineffective. People are okay with clever strategy that catches them off-guard, but they’re annoyed when they’re unabashedly tricked. Here are a few tips for avoiding backlash:
1. Never lie. Especially to the media. It’s one thing to not give away all the details and to have secrets, but you never want to attract media under false pretenses. They will hate you, and you don’t want to destroy those valuable relationships. And you don’t want your misstep to be tomorrow’s story.
2. Ask first. This one is really hard to do sometimes, but when you’re representing your own business, the “better to ask for forgiveness later” philosophy could get you into a lot of trouble. Make sure you’re not breaking laws or causing distress to the environment you’re working with.
3. If you don’t trust them, lose them. With things like performance marketing acts, you’ll probably be selecting tens to hundreds of people to help you pull it off. While you probably can’t run a criminal background check on everyone, make sure they come with some kind of reference. These guys are still representing your business, and you don’t want them being too goofy – or worse – too creepy.
4. Claim responsibility. If you are producing something on behalf of your company, just like your first grade teacher said, put your name [or logo] on it. You don’t have to detract from your awesome campaign, but you do need to explain, on further examination, where this crazy/funny/shocking collateral is coming from.
5. Be yourself. For instance, if you’re a major oil and gas company, don’t flat-out confuse people by hiring clowns to form a parade through downtown. That doesn’t make sense. But, setting up simple street corner demonstrations teaching people about your company’s advanced animal cleaning technology after an oil spill might be something worth considering. By doing this, you’re admitting a flaw and also showing accountability while interacting with people face to face. Remember, not every “performance” has to be an act.
The line between progressive, interesting marketing and blatant deception is usually pretty defined if you use common sense. Don’t hurt people or damage property, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself either. Avoiding negative repercussions is just part of the game of creativity, and these rules will never hold you back from a truly amazing idea.