We have a culture of distrust at the present moment. Our attitude about marketing is symptomatic of this failure to create honest messaging. The good thing is that this can be fixed through education. If people understand how marketing works better, then we can move into a healthier relationship with media.
Take, for example, this article in Men’s Health on a new trend in beer that is designed for after workout consumption. This is going to be about as confusing as anything in our culture can be, as it is a complete mashup of so many opposing things. It points to how bizarre our relationship with marketing and advertising is. The article’s title merits a close reading, just to illuminate how weird things are right now.
The title is: “A Dietician Is Here to Burst Your ‘Performance Beer’ Bubble.” When judging copy or anything that is produced in media it is important to think about more than just the short-term efficacy of the tactics. The title is strategic. It is click bait. It’s pretty clear who it is trying to reach: skeptics, experts, intellectual elitists, people immune to marketing. It is going to give us a reason to laugh at ourselves for wanting the impossible and in doing so it will elevate us above the people who are foolishly believing the advertising.
Men’s Health, like most publications, doesn’t seem to have much faith in its readerships’ interest, its writers’ ability to captivate attention or people’s ability to be interpret marketing, generally. Hence, the clickbait title, but even more telling is how they summarize the entire interview right beneath the title with the takeaway quote. “The marketing is fantastic. But at the end of the day, is it really some magical product? Certainly not.”
That’s all you really need to know. The article then goes into details about various breweries’ efforts to present the public with performance beers or health beers and the science that goes against it. The dietician, Chris Mohr, seems very educated about the interaction between diet and exercise and speaks competently about the lack of merit presented by performance beers. I have no problem with the content of what he said other than his suggesting that the beers are good marketing.
If they are misrepresenting the benefits of drinking their beer, then that is not good marketing; it is dishonest promotion. It is extremely mistaken to think that this is a smart strategy. Politicians are notorious for overpromising and underdelivering and it is because of that tendency that we don’t believe them. If you are trying to create trust with an audience, then you want to do the opposite. If anything, you want to err on the side of underreporting, under-promising and over-delivering.
If people look into the facts of your business and find out that what you are offering is actually better than how you are presenting it, then there is a much greater chance of creating trust. Brands should leave a margin of error in their claims, and we shouldn’t reward dishonest messaging with the title of good marketing. Giving people what they want is a smart business move. Telling people what they want to hear when the reality doesn’t measure up is a great way to ruin your reputation. As marketers, we need to value reputation and not give into the temptation of exaggeration.