I was recently scanning BusinessWeek when I saw an advertisement for Grant Thornton, a top accounting firm. The ad depicts Kim Nunley, Grant Thornton’s office managing partner, biting down on a single red rose. The caption reads, "when you have a passion for accounting…it shows!"
Well, with apologies to Ms. Nunley who I’m sure is quite passionate, an advertisement by a firm telling me their people are passionate carries about as much credibility as some guy at a bar boasting about his high school football heroics.
And that’s the problem with advertising. It suffers from a lack of credibility because it’s all about a company paying money to tell you how good it is. Or how passionate its people are.
To their credit, Grant Thornton did include a JD Power award citation in the ad, listing them as having the "highest audit firm performance." That’s a step in the right direction. If Grant Thornton (and other advertisers) want me to believe their firm has passionate people, don’t run photos of them cavorting with roses. Instead, print quotes of clients who have worked with Ms. Nunley and her peers and will provide third-party credibility to back up the claim. And, by the way, supplement the advertising campaign with a public relations initiative that by its very nature imparts instant credibility. In fact, surveys show that, next to word-of-mouth, public relations is the single most effective means of introducing a product or service.
So, memo to Grant Thornton: please stop telling me how passionate your people are and, instead, get your clients to convey the same message. It will have an exponentially greater impact.