Digital Marketing for Brand ReputationGive Your Visitors the Last Thing They Expect: Honesty

“Honesty” isn’t a topic much-discussed in marketing, since it’s been a largely irrelevant issue for most of the history of the medium.  However, times have changed.

If your company is still focused on image-building through distortion, it may be time to double-think this.

Oh How The Dismal Science Lies, Then And Now…

One of the most fundamental differences between the Internet and all media that have come before is that the user is ultimately in near-total control of what they see and do.   Someone prior to about 1990 who saw an advertisement on TV, or in a magazine, probably wouldn’t have the resources available to fact-check it.

Nowadays, if a consumer questions something in an online ad they can double-check it within moments.

Certain Internet communities are even becoming infamous for this.  Many marketers won’t even go on Reddit because it’s well-known for quickly busting lies, often in a matter of minutes.  Reddit doesn’t have a perfect batting average, but their user base is of above-average education and represents a huge number of interests.

With communities like Reddit out there, it’s easy for virtually any business to get caught in a lie and publicly shamed for it.  We’re not just talking about fringe loons like Amy’s Bakery here either – major brands like Kashi have seen fact-checked Tweets go viral and significantly hurt their business.

Building Trust through Honest(ish) Copy and Content

Another thing worth noting is that consumer trust in most paid online promotions are low, compared to more traditional TV and print ads.  This Nielsen survey from 2013 shows a huge trust gap between old and new media.  People trust what other consumers say online, but they’re iffy about corporate messaging outside of the main website.

That’s even more reason to keep your online content honest. So, as a few suggestions…

1 – Don’t use numbers you can’t back up.  

One of the fastest ways to inspire a user to fact-check you on Google is using specific numbers/percentages.   For one thing: it’s easy to do.  If someone’s looking at an email that claims “62% of Doctors drive SUVs” they’re gonna go cut & paste that into a search engine to see if it’s corroborated.

It takes ten seconds, and if they don’t see an independent study of Doctors and their cars, they’re likely to call foul.  So don’t quote numbers unless they come from a solid source.

2 – Be personal in your pride.

People expect a brand to brag themselves up, but they want some recognition of fact vs opinion.  One of the simplest ways to do this is just to personalize the message a bit.  Don’t say “Aardvark Toothpaste is the best toothpaste, because…”  Instead say, “We truly believe that Aardvark Toothpaste is the best toothpaste, because…”

It’s a little thing, but it makes it clear you’re not making an objective/factual claim while getting the same information across.

3 – Own up to legitimate mistakes.

Research has shown that consumers look more favorably upon companies that accept blame when it’s properly due.  Saying “It’s not our fault!” rarely wins fans.

Whether it’s a major product defect or an upset customer on Twitter with a legitimate complaint, don’t weasel out of it.  Take ownership, and most importantly, explain how you’re fixing it.

A company that occasionally messes up but can genuinely point to a history of improvement will win big PR points.

Honesty Is The Best Policy… Honestly!

Lying online is a dangerous game, and becoming moreso.  Look to reduce exaggeration in your copy, and don’t make claims that a Google Search can quickly debunk.  Online consumers reward businesses that show honesty.

Looking for ways to break away from the dishonesty? Click on our free assessment below and together we can develop a strategy that is both honest and successful!