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Lies, Falsehood, and Marketing

Jacob Brain


Guilty by association. That is how most marketers feel when it comes to the seemingly blurred or grey area between lies and marketing. But this is only the surface of a bigger issue.

Marketing is Lying. Right?

That very comment shows how beaten down we are at this point – that the very idea of marketing creates an understanding that some aspect of “not-truth” is embedded in everything we see.  We live in the times of “fake news” and our trust  toward any message is evaporated. Even the very definition of truth is lost in the wash. The man in the common market sees an ad and thinks, “Marketing is sponsored lies or relative truth. It can’t be trusted. What do they want from me?”

It’s all too good to be true.

Yet, we still need to communicate with each other, and even more now than ever, we need to communicate in truth to one another for our very economy to function. We need to connect people with the products and services they need and we need them to believe what we say. This is our job – our livelihood.

Where do we go from here?

Symptoms vs. Illness

We’re all smart enough to know that you can’t cure a cold by treating the symptoms. The underlying infection has to run its course or be treated in some other way. Treating the symptoms might make your feel better, but does not solve the problem.

This is how I feel about ethics in business. It’s how I feel about lying in marketing.

If you lie in your marketing, it’s because you are a liar. If you help a customer lie, you are a liar as well.

We can try to clean up your marketing and craft better messages, but if you are a liar with conditional ethics, then it’s all a facade. The problem will still be with you the next time you go to market. You are conditioned to think that lying is OK, and very few people would hold that against you – sadly.

Moving Toward Truth

So does that mean that we should all turn on the BS-sprayers and plaster the walls and screens with inches-thick barriers of lies and self interest so that our visitors see no way through other than to comply with our demands to “Click Here!”?

No. What we need is an ethical, truthful vanguard in business.

We need organizations that will start to use seemingly meek, mild, and truthful statements to build trust and expectations in the minds of consumers that create a new type of messaging experience.

We need to simply be confident to stand on the truth about our businesses, and not resort to pushing features, functions, or aspects of our offerings that do not exist. We need companies that are not willing to fudge the numbers to make themselves look better. We need companies that are willing to lay the foundation of ethics on which we can build some of the strongest organizations in the country and world.

The funny thing is, we all as humans have pretty good lie detectors.

If we started using them on ourselves – on our own marketing – we might find that we have some changes to make. We might also talk to other businesses and marketers and help them see the path forward.

Pick the right path, join the vanguard, and choose the truth.

Don’t lie in your marketing.

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