In an attempt to make mass-produced food safe for consumption, additives started making their way into the system of food processing only decades ago. The success of the industrialization of food production only spurred development of chemicals and scientifically-created molecules that we now eat on a regular basis. Yummy!
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, there are at least 275 chemicals added to our food that have NOT gone through the extensive US Food and Drug Administration approval process. They are considered GRAS - generally recognized as safe - which is, in essence, a loophole buried in the 1958 Food Additives Amendment.
Therefore, it's no surprise that a large portion of the food we consume is chemically altered. It’s not authentic. And we’re paying for it with increased rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and more. Today it’s nearly impossible (and unfortunately much more expensive) to eat healthy, chemical-free food.
This got me thinking about authenticity in marketing.
Many years ago, marketing claims went unchecked, like GRAS chemicals in food:
Cigarettes cure asthma.
Listerine® users were less likely to catch colds or have sore throats.
Eventually, consumer protection laws were put in place for truth in advertising. But have they helped? I may be partial but I don’t believe so; let’s just take a look at some of the more recent falsehoods out there:
Bayer claimed its One A Day® vitamins prevent prostate cancer. (Mega lawsuit here.)
Fish oil pill sales boomed when a false report claimed the mental concentration benefits of the oil; the study was too small to be statistically significant but was quoted nonetheless. Numbers can lie (4 out of 5 dentists surveyed will tell you so).
"Naturally-flavored” strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups® (General Mills) were made with pears from concentrate, corn syrup, dried corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and less than 2 percent natural ingredients. (Yikes.)
Hand sanitizers claimed to prevent infection from MRSA - methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. (Not true. Nope. Not even close.)
We are inundated with bravado-stuffed taglines for products that will make our lives easier, help us become more popular, save us time, improve waning libido and energy, lose unwanted weight, make us happier, move us faster, help us become super-wealthy, and more. These are simple, false, lazy claims….every single one of them.
We see these claims all over social media, in emails, on recorded and live TV, and slathered on web sites where their over-use siphons the joy out of content consumption. No wonder why consumer trust in companies is so low that 3 in 4 say claims in advertising are exaggerated.
These messages, claims, exaggerations…call them what you will…number in the thousands daily. Millions a year. Like the chemicals in our food (and many “facts” spewed by candidates during political advertising campaigns), these go largely unchecked. They can’t all be “generally recognized as safe.” Can they?
Companies are trying to stand out in a crowd by carving braggadocian paths of one-upsmanship: ours is better, stronger, faster…theirs is more expensive, slower, and less friendly to use.
Getting back to authenticity
Authenticity has been lost as the norm. As marketers, I believe it’s our job to claim it again. Stop the madness; reduce the pollution in every single one of our marketing channels. Be truthful about your product or service. What does it really do?
Does it really whiten teeth better than a trip to the dentist’s office? Does it really solve their most pressing problem? Does it really enable you to run down beach at sunset hand-in-hand with your partner (without feeling 72 side effects – including nausea, vomiting and death)? Don’t stretch your claims….be real.
Authenticity builds trust. That’s always the best place to start with your customers and prospects. That’s the cornerstone of your relationship. Back up your claim with real results, real data, and real people saying real things about you (not just a select few).
In the next post we’ll discuss ways to be authentic with your audience...and it starts within your own company...helping you stand out in a crowd of over-the-top marketing taglines, claims and tactics.
Until then, here are a few other sources to learn about not-quite-so-true marketing: