Lying as a marketing strategy makes us cynical, suspicious, and less trusting.
Lying is terrible marketing, not telling the truth is always a bad idea, and can have tremendous consequences. This may seem like dated marketing advice in an era where politicians seem to be telling whoppers on a daily basis. But, stop right there. When was it that politicians always told the truth? How many campaign promises become law after an election? And how many times do we get a version of the truth for political or national security reasons? Nixon promised to end the war in Vietnam, he did not. Bush said no new taxes. He raised taxes. Bill Clinton said… well you know.
And all that, landed politicians at the bottom of the public opinion heap, with auto salespeople and attorneys. We expect them to offer alternative facts to make a case or a sale. And we expect a politician to bend the truth when needed – but not every day and not boldfaced over something trivial.
And there is the danger with so much dishonesty – it inoculates us against the truth – it makes us cynical, suspicious, and less trusting.
So what is an organization or company to do in the face of so much false messaging?
The answer is easy: Just tell the truth. Be honest. It has gone from the norm to a marketing advantage. Look at VW, who was caught in a huge deception around diesel mileage. They reversed direction, told the truth, cleaned house, and paid a huge price. The story was damaging, the cost immense, but they ended 2016 with record sales… The truth can hurt, but it also gets you back on track. Compare that to Takakta and their explosive airbags. The company fought the truth for years at a huge monetary and human cost. Its reputation is now in tatters, no one wants its products, and bankruptcy is looming large.
This “I am the victim” mindset that leads to denying and hiding the truth has become widespread outside of politics. Private schools that have tried to bury shocking sexual assault stories have seen their once golden reputations collapse. Hospitals that face charges of substandard care, or worse, poor oversight hide behind the cloak of “we cannot comment in light of the pending investigation” then see their reputations crash outside their siloed boardrooms.
So no, you don’t have to share everything you had for lunch, or browsed on the internet – but you do need to tell customers and stakeholder the golden truth – always. It hurts, and can strain relationships, but it is always a path out of the darkness.