Your Customers Aren’t Dumb

“How mild can a cigarette be?” Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, volume 240, number 17, April 28, 1949.

Lately I’ve been seeing marketing material from big businesses that indirectly assumes viewers are incompetent idiots, and it greatly offends me. News flash it’s not 1949 anymore! Most consumers own smartphones and 42.3% of the American adult population has a college degree. After generations of lies from clueless advertising companies, current consumers are skeptical. The sooner advertisers realize this the better. Talking down to your consumers is not an efficient way to sell to them. Knowingly misconstruing information to appear more valuable is highly unethical and not sustainable. If your product or service is highly valued or expensive, you should expect all your customers to be experts. Even if they aren’t experts, they can become extremely knowledgeable very quickly. Consumers know how to spot lies from a mile away. Everyone carries all the information in the world in their phone. You can’t lie your way to sales anymore. If a potential customer is told a product is great and reliable, they’re going to fact check it by looking at Amazon or Yelp reviews. If they find out you’re omitting key information, or misconstruing it, they will take it as you’re lying to them, and you’ll never reach the same level of trust again. Your psychological use colors, logos, and phrases aren’t enough to build trust anymore. Trust can only be achieved through continuous integrity and commitment. Would you rather make a single sale or loyal customer? Considering the costs it takes to obtain a new customer versus maintaining a current customer, I hope your company makes the right choice.

Spotlight: Liberty Insurance Group

Image credit: Liberty Mutual

The most blatant examples of this that I see everyday are the Liberty Insurance Group commercials. In this 30 second spot you’ll hear, “Now if you had Liberty Mutual New Car Replacement, you’d get your whole car back. I guess they don’t want you driving around on three wheels. Smart.” And on the same topic but different commercial the actor states, “[insurance representative] said I picked the wrong insurance plan. No, I picked the wrong insurance company.” Both these ads suggest Liberty Mutual will give you the full value of your car if you total it. What they’re not directly telling customers is that they offer this service but it’s a rider and it will cost extra fees. Anyone whose bought their own car insurance knows full car replacement exists at almost every company and that it costs extra money. If you call them up asking for a quote and learn you were deceived (which probably wouldn’t happen because you’re smart), would you still be interested in buying a service based on trust from this company? Probably not.

Spotlight: Recycled Records Reno

An example of a company I trust is Recycled Records in Reno, NV’s Midtown District. They don’t pretend to be overly sophisticated or act like they’re the best record store, but they are honest. And they’ve been in business for almost 40 years! They have multiple goofy commercials and when you walk into the shop, you get exactly what you would expect. “It doesn’t suck!” That’s their slogan. To some it might be off-putting but I walked into the store with very low expectations and was ecstatic after I walked out with seven sets of vinyl for $20. It’s not a fancy store and it could be cleaner, but it doesn’t suck!  There’s nothing wrong with under promising and over delivering. If you can make sustainable sales with this tactic, go for it. But I’ll always recommend to use your utmost honesty.

Stop treating your customers like they’re idiots. If you have to use deception to make a sale your product or service is trash and you should be ashamed. 1. You’re lying to people. 2. You look like a fool whose fooling no one. Play it safe. Treat your customers like they’re sophisticated experts with the divine power to weed out the bull crap. All a potential customer has to do is Google “business name reviews” or “too good to be true scam”. Being able to sell your product doesn’t make it great, to achieve greatness a customer has to buy it again! If your customer isn’t willing to buy it again, it’s not a great product and you should stop advertising it as such. Aim to create greater value and be truthful in your marketing. If you want more rants and an analysis of why small business is winning, subscribe to my blog in the box below!

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