Lying is Bad for Business and Other Branding Issues

Lying is bad for business.

I am reading a book, “Seducing Strangers” written by Josh Weltman who is an advertising agency guru. He was the Mad Men consultant that brought us those wonderful creatives during 8 seasons of Mad Men. I lost interest in the series after the 3rd season. But the book is fascinating.

He makes a claim that it would be foolish to lie in this day and age, what with Yelp, Google and social media commentators large and small all commenting on companies and their products effectiveness.

Yet, I see evidence of lying all around me.

I guess not everyone is subject to the crowd sourced opinions of a company’s product. And like PT Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Not everyone has a conscious and the integrity to follow a moral code.

Take for instance the recent case of VW diesel cars having a built-in sensor to know if the cars being tested for emissions. Here’s how the program works: “Oh, the tester has been plugged in, reduce power by 1/3, lower the idle, engage extra filters, pass test. Ok good. Tester unplugged, resume full power and pollute the atmosphere with 40 times the allowable amounts of nitrogen oxide.” I’ve always questioned the common sense of people who are jogging alongside a busy road. You think you are getting “clean” fumes from the cars and trucks passing by? Think again.

VW, the People’s Car, is now the largest manufacturer of automobiles in the world. The largest. One in ten cars are made by VW or their subsidiary companies. How could they lie? Apparently, they’ve been doing it for many years in order to do an end run around government regulations. Give them an A for trying to beat the system. And an F moral fiber.

david-sipress-ask-your-doctor-if-taking-a-pill-to-solve-all-your-problems-is-right-for-new-yorker-cartoonFurthermore, I see tricky ads by pharmaceutical companies that show serene landscapes and serene people requesting you to ask your doctor about _______________, whatever the latest niche pharmaceutical drug that will tweak symptoms but never, ever cure anything. Have you noticed that? It’s all about managing symptoms, never about the cure.

Don’t worry about that serene voice that is warning you that you may die or get diarrhea and be sure to tell to your doctor if you have suicidal thoughts. Or if you’ve had a liver transplant. Really?

The music and the visuals belie the warnings.

I guess they’re not exactly lying but they are confusing the viewer with mixed modalities… “Take our drug, you will be happy.” “Death has been reporting a small number of cases, but mostly you’ll be happy.”

Every work of art has its frame to enhance the picture, every story has to be framed by the context, and every lie has to be framed in order to seduce strangers into trusting a vendor that they can actually help solve a problem.

It seems to me it’s near impossible to get ahold of your doctor, especially if your doctor belongs to (works for) a corporation. I’ve never been given a doctor’s phone number, ever. I may be able to call the practice or the hospital and try to navigate the telephone tree with the hopes that someone picks up before I actually kill myself, because I took an anti-depressant to help the anti-depressant that I am already taking… Now why do they do this?

And when do you see these anti-depressant and blood thinning drugs being offered? During the news programs! So you’re listening to the news that is ALWAYS negative and you feel like what’s the use, there’s no solution to any of this. The politicians that say they have answers, well, you know they are lying… the politicians creed is, “It doesn’t have to be true. Just say it. Someone will believe it.”

Okay now I take to couching my prior rant. Some drugs DO help with symptoms. Sometimes, you have to take an ibuprofen to stop the pain, and give your body enough time to heal. Some folks quite rightly need a pill to balance hormones and brain chemicals to make it through the day. There are other strategies, but the more natural ones take discipline and habit into order to be effective. Things like yoga, meditation, even a moderate exercise program and eating for proper nutrition, avoiding processed foods that don’t come wrapped and prepared for immediate consumption. You mean I have to cook?

It comes down to branding.

What is a company’s brand? A Swoosh? A Logo?

Not at all. A brand is the reputation of the company. Is good or is it untrustworthy? VW’s brand just went into the toilet. It will be interesting to see how they manage, manipulate this crisis.

Most small businesses work hard to establish a good reputation because the owner knows if he or she gives great service and sells great products, that people will refer their friends.

In my business of helping folks solve everyday health issues, there is no greater compliment than to hear a new customer call in and tell me that their neighbors told them to call because we have the best True Omega-3 and that our service is excellent and you can even talk with the owner! He’ll take time to assess your real needs and he won’t sell you on anything you don’t really need.

I think that’s a good thing. What about you?

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