Market who you are, not what you'd like to be.

I believe in honesty. Not just in my personal life, but in business too.

Of course that might be difficult for some people to believe since I work in marketing. After all, it’s a business I’ve heard described as “being paid to lie.” And, I know it’s hard to believe, we’ve had clients who wanted us to do just that.

Years ago, before we started working with credit unions, we had a hotel client who insisted on using an exterior photo in their marketing that was shot at another one of their hotels. Yes, it is possible to use another hotel’s photo — if it’s a close up shot of pillows on a bed, maybe a bathroom vanity or a table setting. But, no two hotel entries look exactly alike and the client just didn’t want to pay to shoot this hotel’s exterior. They really didn’t think anyone would notice.

Someone did — their franchise brand. They weren’t amused.

Mostly though, we’ve run into clients that just wanted to “embellish” reality, to make claims that were difficult to live up to. I don’t believe most of them felt they were being deceptive — it seemed more like wishful thinking on their part.

After all, how many times have I heard a credit union that claims their tellers are “the nicest people”? Unfortunately it only takes one teller having a bad day to prove you wrong. What about “better than a bank”? Now there’s a claim that’s both vague AND hard to prove.

The biggest problem with lying (or more politely, misrepresenting yourself) is that people do notice. They may not say anything, but you lose their trust. And sooner or later, you lose their business.

Market who you are, not what you’d like to be.

And especially not what you can’t be.

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