A friend of mine once confessed, “I’d like to run my own business, but I don’t like lying to people.” It’s a telling indictment on the state of free enterprise in the 21st century. Everyone seems to have an experience of being let down by the system. Whether it’s believing an ad only to find out it was a gross exaggeration of the real world experience of that product or service, or being deceived by an unprincipled business owner promising things they didn’t deliver.
The nightly news provides endless fuel for our cynicism: an airline CEO refuses to apologise for dragging a passenger off a plane (while advertising their brand as “the friendly skies”), an oil company exec tries to deflect the blame for a disastrous oil spill (while marketing themselves as the most environmentally friendly oil brand in the world). Distrust of corporations is now so ingrained, consumers are shocked when their experience of a company matches up to the hype.
But there’s an upside. If you’re an honest business owner offering genuine value free of spin and exaggeration, you can rejoice. No matter how small your company is, you now have an incredibly potent weapon you can use to take on the competition: the truth.
In a world where every consumer can expose a company’s real world behaviour instantly and globally, truth is becoming the most efficient business strategy you can adopt. Why exaggerate the value of your product or service in that million dollar ad campaign and then spend a heap of time and PR money back-peddling when a 19-year old blogger from Dubbo uploads a YouTube video of your shortcomings?
That outdated corporate behaviour not only wastes time and money, it leads to low staff morale, high customer churn, higher cost-per-sale and all those other silent killers of profit.
The key to harnessing the commercial power of truth is to first understand your company’s true purpose – how it adds value to the world by meeting unmet needs, righting a wrong or serving a particular target audience better.
When you align business behaviour to purpose, a number of magical things happen:
In their book Firms of Endearment, authors Sisodia, Wolfe, and Sheth showed that companies pursuing a purpose-first mantra experienced five times the growth of their nearest competitors.
It seems clear that when there is no longer any separation between company and brand image, truth can be an enduring economic engine. Only one question remains: “What’s your truth?”.
Mike Edmonds, Founder and Chairman, Meerkats Creative Business Solutions