I’ve written many blogs about corporations that say one thing in their messaging, but deliver a very different experience with their product or service. McDonald’s is one of the best (or most egregious) examples. Their tagline is: ‘I’m loving it!’ And, while that may be true about the profits they’re raking in from serving fatty, artery-clogging foods, the average Mickey D’s diner can’t be loving her expanding waistline and Type II Diabetes.
Likewise, United Airlines has just resurrected their old tagline, “Fly the friendly skies.” As a frequent flyer on United, I can tell you those flies are ugly. They’re mean. They’re anything but friendly. United’s tagline should be, ‘Fly the lying skies.’
But, what to make of a company that tells the truth about a terrible product? The Heart Attack Grill in Arizona knowingly promotes its deadly menu. And, now, Oscar Mayer is actually bragging about its Butcher Thick Cut Bacon! They’re running an advertisement entitled, ‘It scares other bacon to bits.’ Ouch. To make matters even worse (but, being fully transparent), the Oscar Mayer photograph of hickory smoked bacon shows all sorts of fat and gristle up close and personal.
It’s yucky, but it’s authentic. Does that make it right? I think so. I think that’s all we can expect of marketers. Tell me the truth, and let me make the decision to sacrifice my future health and well-being.
Having said that, I must take this opportunity to ask my fellow public relations firm owners to think before they run another print ad entitled, ‘We prefer to be judged by the company we keep.’ The headline is followed by a series of client logos in the body of the ad.
In addition to being a hackneyed, worn-out approach used by countless firms, the company we keep strategy is a badly flawed one. It leaves the advertiser wide open to being judged by the conduct of its clients. Imagine if your PR firm represented the likes of JP Morgan Chase, the NSA and BP. If your print ad asked readers to judge you by the company you kept, I’d think you embezzled, snooped and ripped up the environment. And, I’m guessing that’s not the image any PR firm would want.
So, what do you think about truth in advertising? Should we applaud the likes of Oscar Mayer for being fully transparent, or continue to look the other way when McDonald’s and United do their double-talking?”
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