Why do you need truth in marketing?

Doing a little bit of on-site tidy up of content yesterday made me think about an article I have left out that is so important to what I do- why truth in marketing?

Having worked on both sides of the fence in terms of being the marketing person who works with a consultant or agency and being that agency who services the marketing person, I have realised there is one common problem- not understanding there is a place for truth and creativity within marketing. In fact, I am a firm believer there isn’t much point doing activities without it.

Creativity is the reason why marketing exists in the first place. Someone somewhere wanted to go beyond just having a sign saying “X for $Y” and actually engaged an audience in a novel way to highlight what they were selling. It worked, and now we have marketing people building all sorts of campaigns and mediums to gain attention. So much so most of us are anesthetised or immune to the majority of what we see.

There are three reasons why we are increasingly impervious to marketing ideas and why you need to include truth in marketing

#1- What a person sees doesn’t match their perception of the product

This is a tricky area to manage as a consumer can interact with your product at a point where it may not be market ready. A classic example of that would be Vodafone’s arrival in Australia- a lot of people joined onto a phone service which simply wasn’t ready and it took ages for them to shake a poor quality reputation as a result. This is why it’s really important to make sure you are ready to launch a consumer ready product.

However the main issue companies encounter with product perception is marketing their product in such a way that the consumer is disappointed by the experience through the marketing not matching with the product itself. When a person is attracted to your marketing and advertising, it means it has made them aspire to or be inspired by your product. So if what drew them to the product in the first instance does not match what they receive will cost you more customers than it gains you.

Why? Because firstly, any business that doesn’t run on repeat business won’t sustain itself in the long run and secondly, you can bet that disappointed customer will be telling a lot of people how crap their experience with your product was. Your product may be sound but if you sell it as an elegant Rolls Royce and it ends up being a charming VW Golf, they won’t be happy because they will feel mislead by your advertising.

There is also a natural rejection factor which could lead you to be the talk of the town because you are simply being too clever with your marketing. This happens mostly when marketers or agencies spend more time playing to stereotypes than they do to their intended audience. For example, banks have flocked recently to the idea of playing on the stereotypes of how they are perceived with ads about ‘Barbara who lives in bank world’ or customers fainting in the garden because someone returns their call. The reasons why those stereotypes exist are because this is what we as their customers have experienced for such a long time.

Including truth in marketing is important. We are jaded, burnt and smart enough to know that no amount of slick advertising has influenced the internal structures of the banks enough to actually change behaviour and improve our interaction with their product. Neither of those ads will change a person’s perception, let alone convert them to a customer as they are too close to a long held and pre-existing negative perception. If anything, they simply open their products up for reinforcement as those negative stereotypes through derision, parody and negative conversation.

As one friend recently remarked, “Commonwealth Bank and great service? Yeah right!” How’s that for truth in marketing not working?

Commonwealth Bank TV Ad – Call you Back

#2- A lack of creativity

Marketing is a creative art and a specialised one which requires a person to have communication skills. It is not something everyone can do and that’s OK, but your marketing should be done by someone who can approach your product with a sound knowledge yet different point of view. They need to be a proper marketing professional.

No disrespect to anyone who has moved their career through this route but sales people often end up sitting in marketing departments based on their sales performance. This is a seriously common yet potentially business hobbling mistake to make.

Selling something is subtly different to marketing it and sales approaches are vastly different to the kind of creative required for a decent marketing attempt. Sales people don’t use creative methods to sell their products, they use sales acumen and whilst they are great relationship builders, they do tend to struggle when it comes to thinking about the importance of copy, design, research and creativity in relation to a campaign.

The sooner companies can understand just because someone can shift a lot of product through being on the road working sales at retail territory level doesn’t mean the same person will be able to devise marketing campaigns which further invigorate their audience from behind a desk armed with words, pictures and imagination, the better off we will all be.

The important thing to realise is yes, you do need to be some of the places people expect you to be as a minimum, such as the web, but what you do with that experience is entirely up to you- and the better thought out ideas that stand out in the crowd will get you further than just doing what your competitors do.

Think of it this way, if you were at a party and everyone else was wearing beige with similarly beige tee-shirt slogans and roughly the same haircut, height and weight talking about Justin Beiber, would you choose one of the beige army or the one or two people who by their choice in colour, clothes, conversation and physical appearance stood out?

This is what truth in marketing hinges on.

Take ‘True Blood’ as a example of effective marketing for a TV show. Before it was released, the network marketing department placed huge quantities of bottled up ‘true blood’ in retail stores.

In reality, it was probably closer to raspberry flavoured sports drink (or similar, I am yet to drink any) but what they did was create a buzz about this blood drink, which in turn got people clicking onto a faux website for True Blood as a product, which in turn got people talking about the programme.

By the time it arrived, they already had customers waiting to consume their main product, the TV show. There is no arguing there was budget behind the project, however it is a much better spend than billboards, radio ads or any of the usual mediums employed by TV execs to get a new show’s name out there.

That folks, is using your creative noodle.

truth in marketing

#3- The sheer volume of choice available

We have a multitude of things available to us to consume in terms of actual physical choice, let alone the brands and sub-brands within each choice. If you don’t match a person’s perception of what they will receive or if you are not creative enough, what chance do you have?


A person goes to buy a DVD player.

That person may have a few requirements already set down such as price, features and how it matches their existing home entertainment set up.

In order to purchase that DVD player, a consumer needs to decide if they want a DVD or blu-ray player, second-hand vs. brand new, online vs. retail, what stores or online storefronts to check out, the brand of the DVD player, compare the products based on features and price.

And consider options regarding the ease of getting it to work with their existing tech, match it to their existing lounge room aesthetic and how it will fit in, look at warranties.

Also consider payment methods and payment plans and review their delivery options.

This could also already be after they have made good use of Google and already done their basic research. Do you really think a sign or a web ad reading “Fred has DVD players” is going to stand out in all that if it is just like everyone else’s?

Just as you can be big or small, either way you can stand out.

You can be in an incredibly saturated market and keep truth in marketing campaigns and your customer conversations.


By realising three important things, you discover truth in marketing-

1)      Every product or service ever invented meets a consumer need and

2)      Repeat business is only ever obtained when the marketing and the product/service match in the consumers experience and

3)      Marketing can be creative if you let it

If you interested in exploring truth in marketing further and seeing how it can work for you, contact rebekah@unashamedlycreative.com.au