Guest post by Becky Hewson
Just because we’re living in a post-truth society you can’t start using ‘alternative facts’ in your marketing. All good marketers know that UK law requires you to include important information, ensure it is accurate and avoid false or deceptive messaging. But, against a background of #fakenews and #altfacts it might be tempting to get a little sloppy. And although a certain small-handed someone might be getting away with it, it doesn’t mean you can.
This article helps you avoid making marketing Trumps – embarrassing marketing mistakes you don’t want to make in the public eye. Avoid these errors to maintain your hard-won reputation and uphold your brand.
Marketing Trump #1 – False Price Promises
You’re ready to crush Black Friday with great marketing for ridiculously good promotions. While ‘act now or lose out’ advertising is effective because it plays on our deep-seated fear of losing an opportunity, the offer needs to be a genuine one.
Don’t be like AO or Currys and state that your prices are amazing one-offs when they’re not. An investigation by consumer watchdog Which? found that half of all goods sold on Black Friday were cheaper at other times of the year. And some were up to £99 more expensive on the super-discount day. Which? reported:
Vax Air Classic Pet from AO.com: “This vacuum cleaner cost, on average, £96.50 in the three months leading up to Black Friday. So, while its £99 Black Friday price tag was reasonable, it wasn’t as good a deal as the claimed saving of £200 suggested – especially as it had been sold at only £69 the day before.” Source: The Daily Telegraph
In this case, you wouldn’t blame consumers for doing a Donald and taking to Twitter for a ranty late night Tweet.
How to avoid this marketing Trump
Don’t be like Donald and end up recompensing your customers for making deceptive claims about your products. If you are going to make price comparisons, compare them with the immediate price for the product. So, if you sold a washing machine for £569 in 2015 don’t use this as a comparison for the 2017 figure of £399. Provide customers with the most recent price the item was sold at for 28 consecutive days or more to stay on the right side of the watchdogs and to treat your customers fairly
Marketing Trump #2 – Good Data, Poor Interpretation
You’ll have seen the US Presidential Inauguration pictures (below) showing Tump’s crowd on the right and Obama’s on the left. And that Trump’s team claimed his crowd was bigger. Obviously, from the images below and expert testimony, this was a plain old lie, something you would never do because you’re not an idiot.
But what you might do is interpret data incorrectly or ignore interpretations that don’t fit with your world view. Like when Trump looks straight down the camera and tells America things are ‘great’ or ‘awful’ when they’re really the opposite of whatever he just said.
A great story from Roger Dooley highlights how confirmation bias can impact the interpretation of cold hard marketing data.
A CEO had achieved success by differentiating on the basis of quality and service with a higher price point. Having moved to a new industry, he commissioned a survey to find out what customers valued. The results showed people ranked ‘price’ last. Instead of asking ‘why?’, confirmation bias kicked in. The results were seen as proof that price could be increased because customers valued service and quality more. Unfortunately, the interpretation of the data was wrong and a slight price hike resulted in a drop in sales. Dooley says:
“In retrospect, price was critically important to our customers but was never an issue because everyone [in the industry] charged the same price. The survey results were accurate, but were taken to imply something that wasn’t true.”
Interestingly, that’s similar to how climate change science is viewed in the White House these days.
How to avoid this marketing Trump
It’s all too easy to get lost in data and, generally, understanding doesn’t appear in a vacuum. While each campaign may generate its own insights, that doesn’t mean earlier knowledge should be completely ignored. At the same time, if the story the data is telling you seems a little too convenient, take a step back. Reposition yourself with an honest look at the questions you’re asking and any assumptions you’re making. If in doubt, get a second, experienced, opinion.
Or, like Trump, invite your richest friends, with tonnes of money but absolutely no experience, along to the party. Sometimes involving someone without much knowledge can provide a less biased view. At other times, it adds absolutely nothing, particularly if your nominee is out of their depth (polite cough).
Marketing Trump #3 – Deceptive Headlines
We all know that, in the UK, women get paid an average of 18% less than their male counterparts, right? Wrong.
Because the headlines you see on this story all spout the same 18% figure, you conjure images of men and women side by side, doing the same jobs, on completely different pay. However, an in-depth study by Korn Ferry shows this is not the case.
When you compare a man and woman who do the same job in the same function and company, the gender pay gap reduces to 1.6%. Not such a great headline.
The danger of this type of reporting is that the headline (and generally the body copy) masks the real issue. The pay gap data has an overall gender variance of 18% but that’s not because all women are paid unfairly. It’s because more men hold senior roles with higher salaries than women. While some might think a gender pay gulley is as desirable as a Miss Universe thigh gap, truthful headlines should take the high ground and focus on the #realnews.
How to avoid this marketing Tump
Don’t click-bait your headlines. It’s the equivalent of grabbing ‘em by the pussy.
It’s not difficult (except for when it is) to think of an interesting, eye-catching headline that gives a feel for the content of your piece. You might not get as many clicks as a click-bait headline but, followed up with good, relevant content, you’ll be more likely to get the right clicks. Generate a following of people who trust you and want to hear what you’ve got to say next and you’re onto a winner.
Marketing Trump #4 – Poor Grammar and Spelling
People judge your intelligence and worth by your spelling and grammar. Look at this quote to see why.
“It’s hard to take someone seriously when they leave you a note saying, ‘Your ugly.’ My ugly what? The idiot didn’t even know the difference between your and you’re.”
But guess what? ‘Bigly’ is, according to Fiona McPherson (Senior Editor with the Oxford English Dictionary), actually a word. It can mean ‘with great force’. So, what does this tell us (apart from the fact we’ve been mocking Trump incorrectly)?
This example highlights how using uncommon words are less an aid to communication and more of a distraction. (Which is the last thing Trump needs because that hair, tan and small hands combination is distracting enough). In Trump’s case, although we sort of knew what he meant, the people he most needed to persuade were side-tracked by the use of an unusual word that sounded ungrammatical. Not only was his message lost on those people but their worst suspicions were confirmed (correctly or incorrectly, you decide) about his intelligence.
How to avoid this marketing Trump
Distracting people from your message with unusual words is not a good call. Unless it somehow works with what you’re selling as with Rowntree’s Randoms who did this well. By playing on the product name, they underlined the random nature of the packet’s contents by combining words, like ‘monkey socks’, haphazardly.
But acting like the grammar police are right over your shoulder isn’t good practise either. Being grammatically correct can also cloud your meaning or feel awkward:
“This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.” Winston Churchill
Instead, to communicate bigly (you see, we can all change), take the Godfather’s stance and use language your customers will understand:
“I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language.” David Ogilvy
Marketing accidents do happen. And, unless you’re a total douchebag, you’ll clean up the stain on your brand reputation as best you can and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Becky is a copywriter who transforms bland business facts into sparkling copy that sells. Her natural curiosity and business experience help her quickly understand organisations and sell their message. To find out more about Becky, click here. Becky is also a member of the Incredibble Content team.