The Value of Honesty

by Emily Jasper on June 9, 2009

**The below post is featured on the Minnesota Chapter of the American Marketing Association Blog.

Much criticism can be found on the web for the current state of marketing. A lot of it is around how blatant companies are getting about pushing a product. It’s so out there.

Yet times are forcing marketers to approach buyers differently. They practically say, “Look man, I know you only have a few extra dollars in your pocket nowadays. Please pick me.” There aren’t many story lines out there, product placement is considered the norm, and all control of marketing is being stripped away thanks to the Internet.

For many, that’s not okay. The art of marketing and advertising is whittled down to who you know and how quickly and directly can you get the message to them. For instance, we all know a product touched by Oprah turns to gold. Her personal trainer might not have been thrilled with the KFC coupon promotion, but look how that turned out. Marketing campaigns don’t seem to be clever anymore. And you don’t even have to be a pro. Look at the Super Bowl Doritos commercial. Even the government is getting involved, striking against General Mills for making medical-like claims for the cholesterol benefits of Cheerios.

Perhaps the real issue isn’t the demise of marketing. Perhaps it’s more that companies are going with the old-school promotion route: “Here you go, have one for free,” “We’d like you to try our product and write what you think,” “Did I mention this is a full-sized sample?” These tactics aren’t new, but the public-ness is.

For instance, if provided with Product X for free and requested to write about it, years ago, it would be done in an R&D study within the confines of a lab/conference room/grocery store/etc. The R&D team would take the feedback, probably throw it away, and marketing would come up with a campaign on its own. Now, when writing an opinion, sure it could still end up on that piece of paper in that feedback box, but it could also be on a blog, message board, tweet, video, podcast, and on and on. So you know that DiGiorno’s gave that tweetup free pizza. Everyone knows. Their 3,658 followers know, too.

What has been happening since the first sample was ever created is now magnified in the public eye thousands of times. It is so out there.

Blatant public-ness is valuable to marketing today. It is honest, and it is working.