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Please, spare us the bullshit

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About DJC

The older I get, the less I know and the more inquisitive I get.

Unfortunately, despite a lifelong search, most of the answers elude me. That said, I love to ask the questions and fuel the debates that will ultimately lead us all to a better understanding of the big issues in life, the universe and everything.

They say that we spend 98% of our lives in our head. I for one would like to use that time as effectively as possible.

Many advertisers bullshit. Most of them will experience negative concequences.

Marketing is the business of managing human behaviour to achieve behavioural outcomes that facilitate commercial objectives. As such, marketing cost-efficiency cannot occur without an understanding of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of consumers doing what they do. This series of articles will provide helpful insights into how consumers think and respond.

Truth in advertising should be a given.

Truth in advertising should be a given. Pic: iStock

Despite the fact that there is a lot of it around, or perhaps because there is a lot of it around, consumers respond badly to unfounded claims, or claims that are simply a lie.

This effect is compounded by ever increasing scepticism about business, its motives and its behaviour. This effect is, in turn, exacerbated by the growth of social media and the speed with which bad news travels in 2016.

Unfounded claims, or bullshit, in marketing takes many forms. Consider:

  • Myer claiming last Christmas that their offering was ‘excellent’
  • David Jones claiming last Christmas that their offering was ‘simply wonderful’
  • A visit to either store would lead even the most generous customer to the conclusion that while perhaps acceptable, neither one is excellent or simply wonderful.  These claims are bullshit. What is more, such claims damage not just the credibility of the business, but also the credibility of business in general.

    It you say it – you need to deliver it. If you don’t, your credibility will be damaged and that, in turn, will impact on the business as a whole.

    Many businesses put a great deal of emphasis on articulating their values. Each of the following businesses list ‘integrity’ as one of their values, and all three have listed their values on their website and other communication:

  • Optus -  fined in 2015 for false and misleading advertising;
  • Wesfarmers  - when Coles was recently fined for poor behaviour towards suppliers;
  • Commonwealth Bank - which has been the subject of many investigations regarding Bankwest, superannuation and, more recently, insurance.
  • Ask yourself, if the behaviour of a business is contrary to its published values, why would you believe that it lives by those values? And why would you believe anything else the business says? Personally, I struggle to believe anything these businesses say.

    I recently heard the Syrian and Russian governments deny a range of war crimes, despite video coverage and independent witnesses suggesting otherwise. I don’t believe them. Do you? What effect have these claims had on your trust in these governments?

    I recently heard the CEO of Coles suggest that they offered equivalent pricing across its stores and used this to justify its objection to proposed government anti-competitive legislation. This was said in the week prior to my paying $5 in one store and $7.50 in another Coles store for the same brand and size container of yoghurt. This further eroded my confidence in anything Coles and, indeed, Wesfarmers claim.

    It has been said that the Y generation demands authenticity more than any previously.  I doubt that, but I have no doubt that all generations respond positively to authenticity and honesty.

    Both represent a real opportunity in a world committed to bullshitting.

    Don’t lie. Always tell the truth. Make truth a competitive advantage

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