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Newsletter #783: The “Honesty is the Best Policy” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Our moms were right: Honesty is the best policy. It’s true on the playground and it’s true (and profitable) in business. A few ways marketers are making it work:

1> For quality
2> For advertising
3> For health
4> Check it out: Jim’s Pancakes

1> For quality

If your quality is slipping, acknowledge it and fix it. It takes courage, but great brands have shown that done earnestly, it works. Recently, Domino’s told the world they weren’t proud of their pizza and vowed to overhaul their recipe. Their new pizza and aggressive marketing around the “we’re going to fix this” message sent same-store sales surging 15 percent and attracted a whole new set of customers intrigued by the new devotion to honest quality.

The lesson: Even in the worst of times, great marketers see an opportunity. This is the time to be honest with customers, to explain what you’re doing to fix things, and to earn their long-term loyalty.

Learn more: Nation’s Restaurant News

2> Your marketing

Honest marketing is rare, making it potentially powerful. After spending 13 years in second place in the rental-car industry, Avis brought in an agency to help them overhaul their marketing. The big question was raised, “Why would anyone rent a car from you?” And the answer: “We try harder because we have to.” This refreshingly honest marketing approach turned the brand around and continues to guide the company today, and Ad Age recently named it one of their top 10 risky marketing strategies that paid off.

The lesson: When companies start making lists of “risky strategies that paid off” by pushing for honesty in their advertising, consider it a sign that we’re all desperate for some truth in marketing.

Learn more: Ad Age

3> For health

You owe it to your customers to be up front with the health factors associated with what you sell. It’s not only better for the world, but it’s better for your bottom line. According to a recent Stanford study, when Starbucks tested posting calories in a few of their New York stores, the average calorie-per-transaction fell by 6 percent — while revenues stayed the same. But for Starbucks stores located within 50 meters of a competitor, posting calories led to an increase in Starbucks revenue. People crave this kind of transparency, especially in relation to their health. And the first one to offer it always reaps most of the benefit.

The lesson: You can hide health issues from customers so long as all your competitors do it — or you could be the first to fight for transparency and take a bunch of happy customers along with you.

Learn more: Stanford Graduate School of Business

4> Check it out: Jim’s Pancakes

In case you forgot how amazing the internet can be, check out Jim’s Pancakes. It’s all about the pancakes Jim makes for his 3-year-old daughter. But more than your typical pancakes, Jim makes them into Ferris wheels, logos, cranes, necklaces — anything. Amazing.

Check it out: Jim’s Pancakes

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