Broken promises

I know that consumers talk to each other, so making a promise and not delivering will be your marketing suicide.

Broken promises

When Amanda Gome contacted me to ask if I would write a blog for SmartCompany on marketing and advertising issues, my first thought was one of caution.

It wasn’t that I don’t like writing. On the contrary, I would happily spend all day working on a well-turned sentence if I could find a way to make it pay.

It wasn’t that I don’t have a point of view, or that I am too reticent to share it. Far from it, as you will hopefully find in future despatches.

It wasn’t even that I was afraid of any backlash from readers disagreeing with my comments. My skin is pretty thick after more than 20 years in the business.

No, the thing that almost put me off was an inbuilt fear of promising to do something and then not being able to deliver.

What if I said I’d write a blog and then couldn’t produce anything due to other commitments or even writer’s block? Can you imagine anything worse?

Taken to extremes, this fear can become almost paralysing, or at the very least can lead to a sense of ultra conservatism – all very un-Australian.

But what about the flipside? What about those people (or brands) who continually and brazenly make promises they have no chance (or intention) of keeping?

As far as I am concerned, they are the scourge of the marketing world.

They think they are being oh so clever with their “bigger, faster, stronger” claims, but really the last laugh is increasingly on them.

In an age of unprecedented consumer power and access to information, an age when consumers actually talk to each other (sorry, but it’s true) and share their findings, the risks for marketers are far greater.

Take the current example of GlaxoSmithKline being shamed into running an apology campaign for misleading consumers over the vitamin C content in Ribena. Will that classic old brand ever be regarded in the same light again?

On a personal level, think about how you feel when a purchase you make doesn’t live up to your expectations. What will you say if someone asks you about it in the future? In turn, what will you think if someone recounts to you a tale of under-delivery concerning a product you are considering buying? Still on your list?

Traditionally word of mouth has been regarded as the best form of advertising, but nowadays that is only the case for those advertisers who earn a reputation for trustworthiness, delivering what they promise.

In my humble opinion, any advertiser who consistently makes promises they know they can keep and then better still, proceeds to over-deliver to their customers, will get talked about for all the right reasons and business success will surely follow.

I promise.


Sean Adams founded his marketing advisory company The Seed in late 2000. Sean has had nearly 20 years advertising experience in Australia and Britain across a range of disciplines – research, planning, account management and media. Over that time he has worked with some of the world’s top advertising agencies, working with many of the world’s leading brands


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