Honesty Is A Great Marketing Policy


shoppingcart.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — Last week, while taking advantage of the after Christmas sales in Manhattan, I ran into an unexpected response from a sales associate – a totally honest one.

I was shopping for clothes for my wife at Old Navy, and when inquiring about a particular sweater, the sales associate told me that from her experience, that sweater was a little itchy. Though I didn’t end up purchasing that sweater (truth be told, I had already purchased a sweater in a similar color at another store earlier that day), I did appreciate that sales person’s honesty.

Question: Which store did I spend the most money at during my Manhattan shopping spree?
Answer: That Old Navy

I also made purchases at H&M, The Gap, Ann Taylor LOFT , Esprit and Banana Republic, but I purchased 30% more (dollar value) at that Old Navy. Now among these stores or during other shopping sprees in Manhattan, Old Navy is rarely my top destination, so these results were actually inconsistent with my personal shopping patterns.

As marketers, we always try to present our (or our clients) best features. How we increase ROI, add value, increase revenue, etc. And that’s what we’re paid to do as marketers.

But are our products really that perfect? Wouldn’t are customers be appreciative if we were a little more honest?

To get a better feel for what I’m talking about, read the Singles section of your favorite newspaper or website. I’ll wait while you read…

…OK. Don’t some of these people sound too good to be true? I mean, how could a successful, attractive, witty, well-to-do and funny 28 year-old actually be single? Now I’m not recommending that this person write that they’re 57, fat and ugly, but I think a little honesty will go a long way to meeting Mr. or Ms. Right, or towards making the sale.

Here’s why:

Honesty facilitates better management of expectations – When we over-promise in the pitch, we decrease our chances of making the sale because it will be harder to maintain the expectations we have set. Let’s face it, if that 28 year-old is less attractive than Natalie Portman, well, we’ll be disappointed.
Honesty enables creating an environment for trust – In the aforementioned single’s ad, I think most readers would appreciate a little self-depreciating humor, and respond favorably to it. In the Old Navy example, the sales associate created an environment of trust by telling me her truthful feelings about the sweater.
Honesty is, well… honest – My father used to tell me that people who do, don’t need to talk, and people who need to talk, need to do so because they don’t. Think about the really successful people you know. They don’t need to remind us of their accomplishments. It’s usually the less successful that need to talk up their accomplishments.

So as we head into a year that is going to be challenging at best, let’s resist the temptation to embellish and instead opt for the facts. Let’s try and not use terms like ‘best of breed’ (unless you’re marketing cattle), ‘revolutionary’, ‘evolutionary’ and ‘paradigm shift’.

Instead, let’s just try and give the honest facts, with a little humor thrown in for good measure. If you’re product is worth marketing, there will be something extraordinary in the ordinary facts.

— Express your opinion, comment below.


  1. This is an admirable sentiment and a good strategy. But…the fact is that consumers want more than they can afford. They cannot accept the fact that they cannot have anything less than the very best. Evidence: this is why we overspend and max out our credit cards. The want special, totally unique, enviable, proven to be the one and only solution to their problem. If one product says, “We’re not perfect…” they will move on to the products that say, “We’re perfect.” Even if they’re not.


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