Wall Street Deceit Is Changing the Way We Sell Soap

Your Clients Will Have to Do More to Earn Consumer Trust

By Published on .

Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
The past few months are going to change the way products and services are sold. I'm speaking specifically about the criminal behavior of Bernard Madoff, and the arrogant and incompetent leadership on Wall Street, led by the CEOs of now-defunct investment banks, along with a few recently booted-from-the-CEO-suite types.

We all know what Madoff did to his investors who trusted him. The banks and investment banks weren't much better. What they did as an industry is instill a whole new era of mistrust in consumers. For instance, Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain believed he needed to re-decorate his office as his company was tanking, so he only spent $1,000,000 on decorations.

I won't go on about the hubris and greed that defines those who we entrust our life's savings with. What I do want to focus on is the impact their actions will have on marketing across all industries.

Gone are the days when companies can try to hold back information with their current and desired customers. Brands are firmly in the control of customers. Customers don't just generate ideas these days. They demand information. They want to know everything brands are doing that's relevant to their lives. And smart brands will give it to them. And I'm talking about not burying facts in fine print. I'm talking about brands re-defining their personalities by becoming fully transparent.

Some have already started. Tide detergent, for example, leads off the home page of its website with a consumer blog. Smart. And gutsy. More and more brands have started to follow suit.

Thieves on Wall Street have pick-pocketed Americans' savings, and the ripple effects are, and will be, seen in marketing for cars, laundry detergent, mutual funds, housing and more. To re-gain the trust of American consumers, marketers will need to adjust their approach in the following ways:

  • Adjust your messaging to one that acknowledges the era we are in, and the position your brand intends to take.

  • Change the tone and manner to being brutally humble and forthcoming. Humor still sells with certain products, but it should be applied carefully.

  • Don't B.S. your customers. These days demand straight talk across the board. Shareholder meetings should be open forums; sites should be more social-media dialogue than selling; PR should be more transparent; advertising should be more thorough and direct customers to a site where that dialogue can begin.
I really believe the impact of Madoff and his merry cohort is just being realized. This is your opportunity to be proactive and provide your clients with informed counsel, so their brands can remain relevant.

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