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High Rankings Question of the Week

September 7, 2011

This week I've changed the name of this newsletter feature from the "Twitter Question of the Week" to the "High Rankings Question of the Week."  I decided that it was too limiting to only ask my Twitter followers because I also have friends on Facebook and now Google+. Moving forward, you'll have the opportunity to respond on any of those social networks. Keep in mind that while you can write more than 140 characters on Facebook and G+, I'd appreciate it if you could continue to keep your answers succinct, and I'll be editing them as necessary!

To go along with today's rant on deceptive marketing, I asked my social media followers:

++Are dishonesty, stretching the truth, or white lies necessary to be a good marketer?++

Here's how they replied at Twitter:

tcpeter: No. You position your product based on its strengths and weaknesses. But long-term value with customer depends on honesty and transparency.

joshgister: No – unless you are trying to sell something nobody needs – also known as a con.
Casieg: I'd like to think not, but there is the question that, if you omit things, does that count as lying? I don't know.

BrianHarnish: I don't think so. I believe that delivering the right message to the right audience is key. No deception or lies.

analyticscanvas: Honesty and transparency are what a good marketer needs. Anything else is (a) wrong and (b) will get detected in an instant!

ann_donnelly: Dishonesty, even white lies, are not the way to be a good marketer; lost credibility and trust = lost referrals and relationships.

forefront1: Never – unless your product is weak or flat-out sucks.

joehall: There is a very fine line, and it's also blurry and sometimes hard to see...but also everything is relevant given the right context.

chris_m_mason: IMO good marketing and PR are based on building trust. Dishonesty ruins trust. Lies will catch you out in the long term.

GrpTwentySeven: Even when the truth hurts, it's better to be open, direct and honest. You will gain from it in the long run.

JTPotts: No way! Marketing is all about identifying real needs and showing good solutions. Anything else is ineffective.

Here's how they replied at Facebook:

Derrick Wheeler: They are required to be a good person. There is a time and place for all three – I prefer stretching the truth, though. Of all three choices, stretching the truth is the most honest, right? So that is my preference. Plain ol' truthfulness can work too!Facebook

Jon Rognerud: Dishonesty, no. Stretching (depending) may be fine to get attention, but you'd better deliver on that promise. As Seth Godin says: "All marketers are liars"... ;-)

Eric Lander: None of them are necessary. All of them are helpful for certain clientele, however.

Larry Mersman: Dishonesty will kill your business quickly. It will lump you into the same category as the old "used car salesman." In this business, news spreads quickly. Stretching the truth seems to be the less offensive of the three, as it is still somewhat based on truth. I'd rather be honest with the customer. They do appreciate it.

Karon Price Thackston: I don't think any of the 3 are necessary.

David Matson: It's only necessary if you are marketing a truly crappy product.

Steven Musumeche: No, just exaggeration. :)

Rob Watts: No, but it IS all about how you tell the story. Paint it wrong or overdo it and it'll look like crap. A good marketer, like a good artist, will know exactly what it is they're trying to communicate and will use their tools and skills to satisfy the recipient.

Woodie Gay: No! Little white lies will lead to bigger lies. Where does it end. They will always come back to bite you. Always tell the truth even if it loses you a sale. Your conscience will tell you that you were right.

Scot Smith: No. Being anything but honest is never acceptable and will always bite you in the rear later on. Even if it doesn't catch up with you, will you be satisfied to have met your campaign goals by being unethical? It's more important to only accept contracts for marketing products and brands that you can fully buy into yourself; once you reach that level you'll undoubtedly reach success in your marketing efforts.

Here's how they replied at Google+:

Tim Laughlin: No, getting caught in those practices is quite often a deal breaker.

Gary Stock: No, they are not necessary; they are regrettable. If political campaigns qualify as "marketing," then sadly, all three are becoming more common – especially intentional Google+dishonesty. Given many popular claims contrary to economic principles, scientific realities, and even historical facts, such deceptiveness is mounting by the day.

Mike Wilton: To be a good marketer, no. To be a successful salesman, sometimes, but even in those instances you'd better make damn sure that you can make up for it in the end. The biggest thing to consider if you have to be dishonest is the risk. If you get caught, will the person impacted understand why and accept it, or will it create a level of distrust for your or your message?

Dianna Huff: Absolutely not. I hate it when people say, "It's marketing!" as if all advertising / marketing is not honest / truthful.

Jill's comment: Thanks for the very thoughtful replies! While it certainly sounds like you're all wonderful non-deceptive marketers, I do wonder if those who disagree were (rightfully) keeping silent. If you don't quite agree, but would rather not leave your name, feel free to share your comments anonymously below.

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 David Leonhardt said:
The answer is simple.

"Yes", if your product sucks.

"No", if your product is good.

Most sales pages on the Internet are full of s**t . (Can I say that? Are we on air?) There is even a fake testimonials and fake reviews industry sprouting up (which means there is a big market for these).

One thing being in this business has taught me is not to trust any testimonials I read online.

On a rare occasion (thankfully, very rare), a client has asked if he should do this. I do not believe that is ever a good idea.
 Gem said:
If you are going to make it in marketing, you have to be genuine and have a consistent message.

If what David Leonhardt is right, and fake testimonials are sprouting up, it is no good thing. When you put something out there, it needs to be real, genuine. That way it will stand the test of time, and the test of customers. That is, after all the bottom line.
 Roslyn Garavaglia said:
Gary Stock's comment sums it up beautifully - lying and deception is pervasive and we'll keep arguing what's right and wrong til the cows come home. Dianna Huff's comment raised another issue in my mind when she said "It's marketing!" Don't you hate it when you're doing business with someone you trusted and they rape and pillage your business and when you try to appeal to their honesty and morality they reply - "Business is business". I hate that more than questionable marketing.
 Jill Whalen said:
@Roslyn... couldn't agree more!
 Wong Chendong said:
Seriously, it depends on how a person look at it, everyone can tell you honest is the answer, but is it really true to what everyone say, I mean everyone had lie before so when someone come to a stage that he had to lie to stay alive, do you think he will say "I would rather die" some will, but most of them will lie.

In marketing there are always scam all around, this is something we can avoid, Frank Kern maybe the best in online launches, but did he lie in his marketing effort, only he can tell... I don't want to say I'm always honest, but to tell you the truth... I had lie before, but again I always do my best to be as honest as I can, but again in times, I really need to lie....

So it all depends how you look at marketing... some people can lie their way to success and some people can all the way be honest and still don't make it to the top, so this question seem to be asking oneself about truth identity only oneself can answer....
 Particia. said:
Hello Jill. I personally think that ALL marketing should be 100% transparent. And I agree with Eric. It's NOT necessary at all. If you're transparent, you don't have to 'cover up' anything, you don't have to put out fires and you don't have to know who's who. It will sort out all complications and you can 'sleep' better at night.
 Brandi Starr said:
In a word, NO! Deceptive tactics will eventually be uncovered and your reputation severely tarnished. Marketing claims should be truthful, yes as marketers we make it all sound "fluffy" but at the end of the day it needs to be honest.
 Shannon Lutz said:
This was some great advice! There are so many grey areas when it comes to marketing and gimics. I love how it's been said above to, "focus on the strengths of your product." That is a definite must. Thanks for posting!