Advertising Must Work on Trust Issues

Financial Meltdown Has Given Everyone a Bad Name

By Published on .

Sarah Ewing Sarah Ewing
Lately, the U.S. work force sounds like it is singing a song straight from the musical "Annie." Does anybody else hear the chorus sing, "It's a hard knock life for us. Instead of treated, we get tricked. Instead of kisses, we get kicked. It's a hard knock life"? The advertising world is not immune to this lament. Yet our advertisements, not our own employment, should concern the advertising world.

Many MBAs consider advertising to be a dirty word. Advertising creates unnecessary needs. Advertising slants the truth. Advertising takes advantage of peoples' vulnerabilities. Many people might say that advertising directly contributed to our current credit crisis. You and I know that advertising ideally helps people find solutions to existing needs. Consumers flock to trusted brands (which continue to advertise) as a source of stability in chaotic times. However, the economic meltdown may require us to change our communication strategy if we are to maintain our customers' trust.

As part of my Web 2.0 management role within a triple-bottom-line organization (we measure profitability, sustainability and community development), I perpetually dive into the blogosphere to keep a pulse on the current market, and that pulse is rabid with distrust. The credit crisis stripped the financial industry to its core, revealing which companies talked the talk and who really walked the walk of honest lending. As a result of this distrust, we might no longer be able to jump on marketing initiatives in advertisements -- such as making green claims unless that whole company focuses on environmental sustainability initiatives.

If consumers have an increased propensity to believe blogs and blogs are criticizing "bandwagon" companies, we as advertisers should advise our clients to steer clear of bandwagon approaches unless they truly are leading the wagon train. It is a new and different approach for us and may require sacrificing short term from long term gains. However, if MBAs can still tease about advertising, imagine what the rest of our population thinks of our ads!
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