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Marketing With Transparency

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I’ve gotten into a bad habit with my children. Whenever they ask me about overzealous promises from a product advertisement, I just tell them “It’s probably not true, it’s just marketing stuff“.

The bad part is that I am instilling a degree of cynicism in the little ones, but then again “buyer beware” has served us well for decades. To get their money’s worth, consumers need to be cautious, if not skeptical, of claims made and should complement personal research with word of mouth recommendations where possible.

My broad-brush description of marketers can be justified simply by witnessing the lack of loyalty transparency in favored market practices today. I really don’t want to read an email telling me that I can earn a 10% rebate on “all purchases made” only to click through and see that there is a monthly dollar cap on my savings. I also don’t enjoy seeing items priced “less mail-in rebate” while I end up paying a higher price at the register and later struggle with paperwork to realize the savings.

To its credit, Best Buy has partially broken from the mail-in rebate habit as it offered 5 Android smartphones at an introductory price with no strings attached.

In the B2B world, the use of whitepapers as the bait in email solicitation is becoming highly annoying and merits a huge Loyalty Asterisk™.  Just this week, I filled out a form to receive a “Whitepaper” from Socialtext covering critical requirements of enterprise social software. Thinking I was going to learn something, I realized as I was reading the document that it was not much more than a capabilities document for their own product reformatted as a whitepaper.

It is a simple and often used formula – take the key features and benefits of the product you are selling and create an outline that proclaims the same key points as “best practices”. The Loyalty Asterisk™ remains prevalent in advertising and promotional circles today and marketers need to accept that building campaigns with roots in gently misleading the public does not breed long term customer or brand loyalty.

In the words of Generation Y (Millennials) it’s “annoying”! Translated, it means “I’m not buying your stuff!”

If marketers are selling quality, performance, and reliability as part of their product or brand promise, then they need to deliver the message with a higher degree of transparency than is seen today. I consistently advise my clients to deliver offers with accurate pricing and all conditions proclaimed up front rather than play the bait and switch game.

The beauty of Web 2.0 and social media in particular is that consumers have the tools and communications channels available to be able to research products, compare opinions, and provide feedback to friends in an almost instantaneous manner. Brands that market with a heavy dose of the Loyalty Asterisk™ will be skewered on Twitter, Facebook, and in the blogosphere.

Rather than play the game and suffer the penalty, marketers would be wise to play it straight, exercise some Loyalty Transparency, and enjoy the complements and adulation of consumers as they award the brand for delivering just as promised. If you are running your business without social media tools to monitor brand mentions and conversations, you need to step up your game.

Adopting the right tools and building a commitment to marketing transparency will yield improved results. I am here to help you with both endeavors.

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