Should marketing tell the truth, or spin it?


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When you open a Coke, are you opening happiness or a bottle of sugar water? Coke marketers work incredibly hard to convince you of the former, but reality says you’re drinking sugar.

Few, if any, mutual funds can consistently beat the market, but financial services marketers work incredibly hard to convey the impression that their portfolio managers are the best. Reality says most are about the same.

Traditionally, marketers have been paid to spin the facts so that prospective customers choose the products they represent. I’ve been in marketing for a long time, but even I can understand that “spin” can variously mean distort, exaggerate, or even deceive.

Heresy? Nope, just the facts.

But what happens now, when humanity itself is being turned into one big fact-checking operation? Social media and 24/7 access to information means a customer in a car dealership is no longer at the mercy of a sales manager who says he has the only Sky Blue convertible hybrid in the state, and that he’s selling it for $1,000 under his cost. (Reality: there are twelve, and his quoted price included $1,727 in profit.)

I’d like to suggest that marketing needs to own the truth. That is, it needs to be marketing’s responsibility to get the facts straight and to make these facts easy for any current or prospective customer to access.

The truth is going to come out anyway, and if the company reveals it then at least they will enjoy credibility. But more importantly, the truth will force marketers to find factual ways to attract customers. Some options include personalized services and smarter products. By the latter, I mean products that can sense their surroundings and thus better serve the customer.

I’m betting on the truth, and I hope you do, too.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Bruce Kasanoff
Managing Director of Now Possible, was cited by The Chartered Institute of Marketing among their inaugural listing of the 5 most influential thinkers in marketing and business today. He is an innovative communicator who has a track record of working with highly entrepreneurial organizations.


  1. It is great to see the Web provide access to information that can quickly make marketing accountable to facts. Great sales and marketing can no longer overcome an inferior product….other than for VERY lazy consumers. AMEN!

    Another form of marketing expenditure needs to have the same scrutiny, although it is posted as professional services on the books. What is it? Fees paid to analysts.

    It will be nice when the Web finally forces analysts to be accountable to call out how much their firms are receiving from companies they write “independent” evaluations. For some of these firms the starting price tag to get coverage is 150k+…and that is what I have been told directly…off the record, of course.

    Analysts should either represent the buyer or the seller, but not both. When will this clear and present conflict of interest no longer be acceptable to buyers?

    If it walks like a duck….


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