If only there were a truth detector in marketing! Everyday, in every form of marketing, we are fed piles of BS. Everything from “wipe stains away instantly” to suggestions that drinking this beer or driving that car will make you more popular, sophisticated, smarter sexy, or whatever else it is that ails you. I understand the concepts behind that, you’ve got to have something to sell other than liquid soap, flavored water, or a big hunk of metal. That process involves speaking to the needs or desires of the target audience.
The funny thing to me is that nobody buys the advertising gimmicks, but they do buy the products based on the advertising. I’m not fooled for a second that my life will change significantly when purchasing any particular product. The only change really will be less money in my wallet and perhaps brief or periodic moments of entertainment. Oh, and a few less stains, perhaps. But despite the fact that I don’t buy into the glamor in the advertisements, they still help sell the products.
What would happen if we instituted a policy of 100% truth in advertising?
Hmmm… well, my first thought would be that this would be the end of 30-second commercials. Too much information would have to be included in order to present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Talk about a hard sell!
Scott Adams of Dilbert fame thinks the solution to the worlds problems would be if we could all have the power to know who’s smarter than the next. He makes a compelling argument, but I think the power to know who’s telling the truth and who’s not makes more sense.
Let’s avoid politics here and speak only about marketing. Wouldn’t it be great if we could instantly know which advertisements were true? Certainly there would be shades of truth built into any truth detector since the best lie, er, advertisement, is the one wrapped between two truths. But it would be great to know which ones are just pure fantasy, designed to incite our emotions, and the marketing messages that are really relaying the honest truths.
Imagine how that would change the marketing landscape. No more pictures exclusively of smiling faces of people using the product. Instead they might be replaces with slightly confused, or even mildly amused faces of users, or perhaps a picture of a certain product collecting dust in a closet somewhere. I can see ads for workout equipment resting unused in a corner with a picture guy with sitting on the couch in his underwear holding a bear atop is protruding belly, on top of which rests the remote control and potato chip crumbs!
But then, maybe total truth in advertising is not such a great idea. This product or that service may or may not make our lives easier, turn us from rags to riches, or turn us into babe magnets, but we can dream, right? Its the dream that we want, often much more than the product itself.
While there is no doubt that when comparing one product or service to another the absolute truth would ensure we make better decisions but this will never happen. The onus is on us to do due diligence. And maybe that’s a good thing. The best things worth having are those that have to be worked for, even if that means sorting through the advertising mumbo jumbo and getting to the truth, or the truth as near as you can tell. Besides, what is 100% true for one person’s experience will also be 100% false to another’s. The truth in advertising lies in finding those of like mind that are in agreement. That’s about as close to the “truth” as you’ll find without getting to your own truth once you make the purchase.