There are many people that would agree that the foundation of every functional relationship is trust. So, in my humble opinion, one of the worst things a party involved in a reciprocating relationship can do is lie, even if that lie is simply leaving out the truth. That is why in any business setting (especially in marketing), I believe the best thing you can do for your brand, for your employees, for your customers, and frankly, for your profits, is to tell the truth about your products, your services, and your business practices. For me, as a consumer and as a businesswoman, transparency is key.
Therefore, when a business does not tell me the truth about their products, their services, or their business practices, I lose both trust in the products and faith in the brand. Not only do I doubt the integrity of the company and avoid buying their products and utilizing their service, I spread word of this dishonesty to friends and family (other potential consumers). While something that happened in 2012 is by no means current events, I think the following example illustrates my point particularly well.
On October 8, 2012, an article was posted on “Natural News” regarding deception and false advertising occurring at the ever popular Whole Foods market. (A link to the specific article is included below.)
Despite many public statements and logos by company management explicitly stating that their foods never contain anything artificial, it was uncovered that many stores were selling unlabeled foods that contained genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
While Whole Foods claims that many grocery stores sell unlabeled GMOs, none of these grocery stores claim that there are no artificial ingredients in any of the products that they sell. While there are many people who are adamant about eating only organic foods, the majority of negative emotions present in their consumers stem not from the fact that their foods do contain GMOs, but from the fact that Whole Foods dishonestly presented their brand and their products.
There are many consumers who took this dishonesty to heart; they started spreading negativity about Whole Foods, and stopped shopping at their stores.
Something else that I would classify as dishonest or false marketing relates to the “healthy” crash diets, juicing, and metabolic pill products that have been trending lately. A lot of them make claims like “lose ten pounds in your first month,” or “go down by two dress sizes in 30 days.” Not only do these claims not work for everyone who purchases the product, there are disclaimers that are often hidden behind and beneath layers of wordy text that qualify these ambitious statements as only applying to a certain percentage of the consumer population. While some consumers will invest in these products based on such claims and be pleased with the outcome of their weight loss journey, there will inevitably be individuals for whom the products do not fulfill the company’s claims. It is these individuals who have the potential to tout the dishonesty of the marketing campaign.
Talking about companies in a negative light is the only outcome that I can see for marketing campaigns making dishonest claims about their products, or aligning their products or services in such a way that they only appear to align with a consumer value. As a consumer, if I found dishonest or false advertising among the marketing practices of a brand that I am loyal, my loyalty to that brand would decrease, and I would even dissuade others from remaining loyal to that company. This risk, in my opinion, outweighs any potential benefit of the possibly unrepresentative claims.