The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Marketing Truth Isn’t Truth …
June 18, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Marketing Fail

So a few weeks ago I wrote about a direct mail letter that proudly stated upon the front of the envelope, that it wasn’t direct mail.

I mumbled that with this sort of approach, it’s little surprise people don’t trust advertising – or a lot of brands – anymore.

Well, that is if they ever trusted them in the first place.

Anyway, I recently came across another example of marketing mentalness. This:

There you go, 100% pure orange juice … that is if you ignore the other ingredients that aren’t pure and aren’t orange juice.

Seriously, what the hell do they think they’re doing?

Sure, they might have been able to get away with this sort of thing before … sure, many people might not ever notice … but that doesn’t mean it’s right. In fact, I’d argue that when people notice the truth, they’re pretty unlikely to believe anything they ever say again.

Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

After all, people still buy Subway after they had the fucking audacity to say ‘the foot long sub’ was a brand name, not an indication of length … despite the fact they’ve been pushing the length of their footlong sub for as long as I can remember.

Seriously, what can we believe anymore.

Is there really 1/2 gallon in that orange juice container?

Is there any orange juice at all in that container?

Maybe I should jump on the bandwagon and say my penis is 2 foot long [but that’s only my name for it, it’s not an indication of it’s true length] and that I went to Oxford university, without revealing that I only went to see it with my parents when I was 6 years old and that’s the closest I got to going to any university.

According to some studies, advertising people are only slightly more trusted than a used car salesman.


For fucks sake!

I don’t blame society for thinking that – but the truly sad part is there’s lots and lots of genuine, decent, compassionate, smart people in adland – and yet they are letting themselves get tarnished with the ‘untrustworthy’ brush by people who have mistaken the work ‘marketing’ for lying.

Marketing isn’t about lying.

While it is about finding a way to position and promote products so that they will achieve maximum desirability – it should be about cleverness and insight, not bullshit and lies.

I love this industry I work in. It’s given me a wonderful life and lifestyle … but if we continue to allow ourselves to be pushed into making claims that – regardless how you look at it – are about trickery and lies, then we are all contributing to the downfall of our industry and careers. And that would be hugely upsetting, because not only do I think there are lots of wonderful people in it, but – when done right – it has the capacity to make a positive difference beyond the world of commerce, but to society as a whole.

Rant over. I feel better for that.

Thanks for ignoring me. Ha.

39 Comments so far
Leave a comment

If marketing “is about finding a way to position and promote products so that they will achieve maximum desirability” then lying for bad products is inevitable. But, of course, that isn’t what it should be about.

Comment by John

I don’t believe it’s inevitable John, it’s always a choice. Brands that choose that path are simply either lazy or greedy and the reason they get away with it is because there’s low care and involvement about brands from most people and the ramifications once discovered, are rarely serious enough to put them off continuing the same approach.

Comment by George

I’m not saying it’s inevitable in all cases..

Comment by John

It should be about creating outstanding products and services and connecting them to customers whose known or unknown needs they meet beter than the alternatives.

Comment by John

Yep. Too often, advertising is the tool for the lazy or unambitious marketer.

[I think you may even have said that term]

Comment by Rob

The Subway story is ridiculous and bizarre.

Comment by George

Isn’t it. And they had the nerve to persevere. I know why – because the legal implications were huge – but all it did was make them look even more foolish. Though sadly, it doesn’t seem anyone cared because their shops still seem to be very busy every time I pass one.

Comment by Rob

When did you ever pass a food outlet?

Comment by John

When I’m on a plane.

Comment by Rob

Never talk about your penis again. Talking about your best mates donkey cock is bad enough but talking about your slither of manhood is reason to calls the cops and claim mental torture.

Comment by Billy Whizz

You’ll be telling me lucky charms aren’t lucky next. Happiness killer.

Comment by Billy Whizz

‘Mad Men’ isn’t helping your case.

Comment by muggleinconverse

Working in advertising isn’t helping him much.

Comment by DH

Advertising should be grateful Rob works in it. If he’d followed his families footsteps into law, no brand or agency would be safe.

Comment by Bazza

Blackmailing China into a gazillion holidays is working just fine it seems..

Comment by niko

Because he’d have the law to punish brands rather than his words or because he’s a spiteful bastard?

Comment by DH


Comment by Billy Whizz

The only thing I want to know from this blog is where’s Andy.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Bonnie is receiving more treatment so they’re all in LA. Everything is fine, it is part of her ongoing rehabilitation. I will tell him how much you miss him Billy.

Comment by George

And me.

Comment by DH

People love to say that advertising is under greater regulation than the press but that is because the press is more influential in people’s lives and decisions. That doesn’t mean brands should think they can get away with slack standards, it should serve as a goal for brands to realise their full potential. Some are doing that already, most just confuse potential for profit.

Comment by Pete

Bravo … great advertising is about insight into a product truth … a real product truth … and folks that need to look for some lie to sell a product are just dills … and lazy dills at that … there is always an outstanding product truth that will resonate with a target consumer and getting that right will always sell more stuff … thanks for your blog … daily reading for me

Comment by Jimi Bostock

I think one of the issues is that as an industry, we have become obsessed with ‘differentiation’. Or should I say, obsessed with ‘functional differentiation’.

In my experience, brand values are the most powerful differentiator … plus, they can’t be copied very easily which means we don’t have to endure the embarrassment of an annual brand ‘relaunch’.

My comment shouldn’t be mistaken for not valuing innovation or recogising it’s benefit in securing a brands influence and attraction, however when a brand bases its reason for being on having 12% more juice than it’s competitor [which had 12% more than they did just 6 months before] you are building your house on sand.

Comment by Rob


Comment by Jimi Bostock

The only people who care about that crap are the brand managers

Comment by northern

I don’t know if I agree with you Northern … there’s too many I’ve met that don’t even care about that. And those that do, don’t understand them beyond being ‘words in a pyramid’ whereas companies who really are defined and ruled by a set of beliefs and values have ‘differentiation’ baked in to their business.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have to innovate and evolve, but it also doesn’t mean they need to use media to brainwash an audience into caring about the latest micro-update they’ve launched in a desperate attempt to have some news to abuse society with.

Comment by Rob

Just to be clear, the crap I was refering to was tiny points of product difference…not brand values.
If you’re saying it’s worsethey don’t even care about the tiny points of difference and on a Millward Brown brand health pyramid than I just want to weep.
On reflection, even if you didn’t mean that, I suspect it’s the case with many

Comment by northern

I find it amusing how neither of you wants to upset the other with one of your comments. Is it some sort of planner code or 2 men who want to do the beast with 2 backs when you see each other?

Comment by DH

Is he not this nice to other people?

Comment by northern

I can’t believe you have to ask.

Comment by DH

Double gay.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Very true, Rob.

There was a bit of a catfight a few years ago in Oz between Kraft Peanut Butter and Nutella.

Nutella started snarking on about having a lot less fat, so Peanut Butter came back with an ad about having less sugar. Both true claims, but both relentlessly negative to the category as a whole, and entirely irrelevant to why people like and buy both. Lose/lose.

Never saw the results, but I suspect it ended up with a lot of people switching to Weetbix. Probably not what the morons who did it had in mind when they started …

Comment by Ian Gee

Do you remember that campaign in Australia where Sanitarium did an ad saying that the amount of sugar in a packet of Nutrigrain could make a chocolate cake?

Kellogg’s took them to court. Not because it was wrong, but because they didn’t want that publicised … and yet the purpose of that product has always been an ‘energy creator’ [Iron Man Food] and yet, instead of owning the truth, they tried to hide from it making them look stupid and making their last 20 years of advertising pointless.

Comment by Rob

Very true, and another good example.

Sometimes marketers start to believe their own ‘reality distortion field’ (read ‘bullshit’) and then get very panicky when someone sticks a pin in their balloon.

Witness Volkswagen Australia this month … stonewalling and denying responsibility until they have killed almost all brand credibility.

Loyalty is not compulsory and it’s never absolute. It exists as a continued willingness to entertain the idea of buying the brand’s products. Lie to them, cheat them, besmirch your reputation or dodge responsibility for your actions and you’ll find that willingness quickly evaporates.

Comment by Ian Gee

I think those hilarious examples are just an extreme manifestation of a phenomenon whereby (some) organisations think that marketing and communications are so powerful that they can deliver growth just by their ability to create loyalty. The loyalty model (as surprisingly few people know), is flawed anyway. Cleverer organisations (including quite a few local ones in China) seem to have twigged that they can get to growth more easily by having better and new things to sell, and getting them onto the shelf efficiently, rather than trying to find new spins on old stuff and wasting time in the process having endless conversations about what spin to spin.

On that note, the Used Car Salesman is a rather apposite analogy…. both adpeople and used car people are both types who put new spins on old stuff. The used car salesman by necessity, the adman due to the conceit of some marketeers.

Comment by Jim Bob

Lots of us have talked about the misunderstanding of what ‘brand loyalty’ really means from a commercial perspective but then I also think many people who recognise this also make the mistake that loyalty is a mythical state of mind. It isn’t. Yes it requires an ability to continually develop and grow (but in meaningful ways, not just for the sake of it) … yes, it means that you will continually face pressure from companies/brands who adopt a “feature” approach to marketing, but the value of brand and the value of having a base of supporters who believe in what you’re doing and will demonstrate that through actions and wallet should never be ignored or deemed too hard.

Loyalty needs the lens of reality placed upon it as well as the reminder of what a commitment to your values can do for you in the face of constant and increased competition, spend and distribution.

Comment by Rob

Good point. ‘Truth well told”

Comment by northern

I see what you did there. Nice.

Comment by Rob

Sounds familiar. Wasn’t that Mechanical Erickson?

Comment by Ian Gee

Leave a Reply