Why Truth in Advertising Is More Important Than Ever

Gone are the days when a company can say anything on a TV commercial and not be challenged by it. Only 20 or 30 years ago, there was no social media presence keeping companies honest and no Google reviews to indicate whether the claims were true or false. Transparency is needed, and no patented “secret” is going to fly in the age of digital marketing when it comes to explaining how your product works.

In 2019, you’d have thousands of people online either demanding to know the truth behind that secret or meme-ing the heck out of the company for it. Nothing falls through the cracks anymore. There’s nowhere to hide.

However, not all companies have gotten that memo, and not understanding how marketing works in 2019 can hurt you.

The New Word of Mouth

First and foremost, marketing is about telling stories. This includes stories about the company (who they are and what they stand for) and stories about their customers (how their products or services support them and make their lives better). It’s always been that way — only now, they are two-way stories, told in real time.

It used to be such that you’d ask your neighbor or friend for their opinion about a product or service you were considering. You’d hear something over coffee or receive an incidental endorsement after bumping into someone at the store. This isn’t the case anymore.

Now, all you have to do is Google the company in question and find dozens or hundreds of neighbors and friends telling about their experiences, both good and bad. You can go to the company’s social media accounts and find out how they’re interacting with their customers and determine if they really seem genuine and forthright.

Word-of-mouth marketing was important before the internet age, and it’s become even more important since. However, it has changed a lot. There will always be a place for billboards, TV commercials, and print ads, but if your company has any chance of success in our modern world, you’ve got to manage your online reputation and all the online chatter.

It’s no surprise, then, that smart companies are investing in these things ― their social media presence, messaging, interactions, and those online reviews that can make or break a business.

Companies That Have Made False Claims

It’s hard to believe this exists in our always-under-the-microscope culture, but it does. Just like those companies making false claims, reverse mortgage scams seem to be another niche market where companies think deception wins the day. It doesn’t.

Reverse mortgage scams are nothing new, but now there are millions of people with bullhorns on social media, ready to let the world know when something is amiss. From high-pressure sales and misrepresenting risks to more obvious scams and fraud, there are still some companies out there playing the game by the old rules. And those old rules no longer work, at least not for long.

A drug company can only make false claims and get away with it for a short time. Drug makers nowadays aren’t only getting increased sales through false or misleading claims — they’re also getting lawsuits for falsely marketing their products. If legal action doesn’t catch up with such manufacturers, negative reviews (and subsequent press) eventually will. Consumers have more leverage today. They’re more ready to tell others when companies aren’t being honest, and they have many platforms from which to do it.

Of course, small errors in customer service can damage your reputation as well, even if it doesn’t constitute true intentional false advertising. Sometimes, customer service reps give bad information or advice. In such cases, it’s important to understand what you can do to protect yourself. Professional liability insurance can protect your business against claims relating to such errors.

Truth in advertising isn’t some lofty code of ethics some companies hold themselves to. It has become a necessity, at least for those companies who strive for longevity.

How to Bolster Your Company’s Reputation

Regardless of how you feel about President Trump, most companies could learn a few things from his campaign success. He and his team hit upon all the main points of any good marketing strategy.

  • Know your target audience and be true to them.
  • Know their pain points and the problems they have.
  • Offer them tangible solutions.
  • Create a narrative around these.
  • Use emotional drivers to inspire action.
  • Repeat your message over and over.

Now, some can argue just how tangible (or effective) some of those solutions are ― wall-building, for instance. Remember this, though President Trump won the presidency when most people considered it a foregone conclusion that he wouldn’t, his repetition regarding the issue of illegal immigration was a huge part of that success.

However, when it comes to improving your company’s reputation, perhaps the answer is even simpler ― care about your customers. Be truthful in your dealings with them. When problems arise, don’t hide from them; be upfront and fix whatever those issues are.

Yes, it sounds simple. It’s also what leads to those coveted five-star reviews on Google, which is incidentally, the best marketing bang for your buck that you’ll probably find.

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