Remember when you were a tween and you told your mom you were going to be at your girlfriend’s house but instead took the train into New York City? Or how about when your teacher asked you questions about your book report, but you didn’t know the answers because your best friend wrote it for you?
What happened? You got caught!
Your mom found the train ticket stub in your jeans pocket when she did the laundry and the teacher watched you like a hawk in class because she didn’t trust you anymore.
What did you learn? As your mom no doubt told you countless times: “Honesty is the best policy.”
And that’s why your mom would make a great marketer. Because the same principle holds true for business — and particularly the stories we tell our customers.
Dishonesty Lingers a Lifetime Online
It seems like a no-brainer, but too often we see good brands with smart executives make bad decisions in an effort to build brand awareness.
One dishonest decision can ruin your brand’s equity.
So don’t do anything, ever, to jeopardize your audience’s trust. Think of each action and every initiative as an opportunity to gain your customer’s trust. Ask yourself, “how will this decision impact my relationship with my customers? Will it make it stronger, more engaging?”
Let’s look at a recent campaign by Belly Ballot, an online business offering a fun and interactive way new parents can name their baby with the help of family and friends. The campaign resulted in a controversy over the company’s honesty that raised eyebrows among marketers and, ultimately, put the company and executives under the microscope and at risk with the community and their fans.
It is ironic and oddly fitting that Belly Ballot’s tagline reads, “making a decision that shapes a lifetime.”
In a nutshell, Belly Ballot created an online contest to pay an expectant mom $5,000 to let the Internet name her baby. After not receiving any interest from a single real-life mother willing to hand over the naming decision to the Internet, Belly Ballot did the unthinkable. They hired an actress, Natasha Lloyd aka Natasha Hill, to play the winning contestant. Natasha Hill portrayed herself to the public and media as a struggling mom-to-be who needed extra cash to pay off credit card debt and start her baby’s college fund.
Long story short, after the media received tips of inconsistencies in Natasha’s story, the truth was discovered and Belly Ballot got caught in a web of deception. Belly Ballot’s founder, Lacey Moler, confessed the contest was a hoax. Moler admitted she used poor judgment and revealed she never imagined the contest would go viral.
Getting Back to Basics
In an effort to build brand awareness, Belly Ballot put their reputation at risk by manipulating the online contest. Rather than engaging and securing the media and public’s confidence, Belly Ballot’s decision diluted their brand’s equity.
Adding insult to injury, the fabricated contest also went against the grain of everything their wholesome brand stood for — or so it appeared. The company now needs to methodically rebuild their brand’s reputation and their audience’s trust.
But first, let’s all go back to basics and remember:
- Brands are like children. They need to be nurtured in order to grow.
- Not telling the truth is never a good idea.
- You get one chance to make a first impression.
- The best brands have a commitment to quality.
- Good brands and good businesses are built on honesty and integrity.
- Seize every opportunity to grow your brand.
- Rational thinking and creative intelligence make some of the best strategies.
- The Internet is a powerful tool. There is no hiding from the truth.
- People do business (and buy from) people they trust.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou: “When you know better you do better.” So no excuses. Remember what your mother taught you. Honesty is the best policy. She was right!