The Art of Honesty in Marketing

How does a small Chinese restaurant in Montreal get featured on the home page of the number one news website in Australia? By providing a menu with extremely honest comments from the owner on how the food really tastes.

Source: Twitter


Honesty and Marketing?

When you think of traditional marketing practices, honesty probably isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind. And why should it? For decades brands have spent large amounts of their budget on carefully positioning their brand in the minds of consumers – subliminally telling us, for example, that a specific car brand will leave you with confidence and success. But, in recent years, attitudes have started to change with a far greater focus on authenticity.


As we jumped into a new year, get ready to start taking a more honest and purposeful approach to your marketing practices that align with what consumers are actually concerned about. The top 10 most important global issues (as ranked by The Borgen Project) are truly critical concerns for people and society worldwide. The problem is that they’re so abstract that many of us have no idea how to contribute quickly without major life changes. So how do we make it easy for consumers to make good choices?


Radically honest marketing

Instead of labeling everything with “cause-cordial” buzzwords such as eco-friendly and bio-degradable, make it extremely clear to your customer what the product does and how it supports a specific cause. I know, it may seem counterintuitive to tell the absolute truth in marketing. But after two years of living in a pandemic with uncertainty, empty promises and disappointment, people are craving honesty and truthful messages.


Honesty is the best policy

A company that was one of the first to join the marketing honesty club is Patagonia. Back in the 2011 Black Friday edition of The New York Times, Patagonia published a bold full-page ad telling readers not to buy their jacket. Next to the jacket’s image were details on what customers could do instead.



Though the ad wasn’t successful in its intended purpose — sales increased 30% following the campaign — it did provide a more brutal honesty for new consumers who no longer viewed themselves purely as a profit machine.

This is a great lesson for marketers who are trying to build a loyal fanbase. When it comes to your customers, honesty is always the best policy. Even if it means being clear about something that you’re not exactly proud of. Your customers want to know they can trust you, so try providing transparency on your product roadmap instead of covering everything in sugar-coated promises that customers see straight through if they spend more time with you.


What’s your best advice for honest marketing activities?