Truth in Advertising?

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Just how honest should advertising be? Where do you draw the line between emphasizing your strengths and hyping them? Is there more to gain by being completely transparent with your customers?

Today, the most successful brands make trust a cornerstone of their relationship with customers. It just makes sense. First of all, earned trust leads to brand preference and loyalty. Second, there are just too many ways that customers and prospects can find out who you really are, and what your products and services can really do — consumers can expose the truth through a simple Google search. In other words, a lack of honesty can do irreparable harm to your brand.

So how can brands earn more trust — and use a new, higher level of transparency to their advantage?

We think there's an opportunity to go farther — to take customers behind the curtain, and reveal more than ever before. In other words, super-honesty.

Here's a recent example from McDonald's in Canada. They created a three-minute mini-documentary which explains why their burgers look better in ads than in real life. They flatter viewers by telling them that they're smart enough to go backstage, and still have the opportunity to show off some gorgeous photos of their hamburgers.

Is this advertising? Absolutely. But it's positioned as the answer to a customer question, "Why does your food look different in the advertising than what is in the store?" In the end, it's a truthful look behind the scenes posing as an ad that has been viewed so far by 8.5 million people. In this case, super-honesty resulted in some highly effective marketing.

In our neck of the woods, with technology and B2B marketing, providing a look behind the scenes — if it's interesting or entertaining — is a tremendous way to engage audiences and build trust. Consider putting a spotlight on your own internal experts. The way you solve client problems. How your team discovered a "breakthrough" that resulted in a competitive advantage for your brand. Your team and a client talking about how you worked together to overcome an obstacle.

Then consider ways you can share this look behind the scenes to the world. A YouTube video like McDonald's. A Slideshare presentation. An eBook. A TED talk.

Don't be afraid to tell it like it is. Your customers probably know more about you than you think.