July 16, 2022

Marketing can be deceitful. 

Now, hear me out—becoming a marketer truly changed the way I see the world. I fell in love with it because I wanted to help my talented (but too humble) artist friends brag about their skills, and I saw the impact of what a little more thoughtful marketing could do.

I still love marketing (obviously). I will always be a marketer. 
The heart of everything I do at Kleist Creative is, essentially, marketing. 

Aaaaaaaand, at the same time, it’s so easy to see why marketers get such a bad rap. 

We’ve all been deceived by marketing before. (And if you haven’t, then I’m pretty sure you’re living under a rock.) 

Sometimes, you’re scrollin’ through IG, and an ad just grabs you. And that’s what it’s meant to do—it means that some VERY talented designer, copywriter, strategist or ads specialist did a good-ass job.  So when the product or service doesn’t live up to your expectations, the marketing is the first thing we blame. 

“All marketing is lying!”
“They’re just marketing to you to get you to buy their stuff.”
“America is only good at one singular thing, and it’s marketing.” 

^^^^ that last one’s my favorite, because it’s kinda true. Lmao. 

Here’s my hot take, though: The buck ALWAYS stops with the founder.

A Real-Life Example

Let me tell you a little story.

Last month, my boyfriend and I were on the hunt for the perfect sectional couch for our new apartment. We scoured the internet for the best ones, and I even brought my butt to Crate & Barrel and West Elm to sit down in (what must have been) 15 couches.

I found one I loved from Crate & Barrel, but it was on backorder for 6 months, so I decided to take to the internet instead.

That’s when the Albany Park instagram ad hit me.

The ad featured a beautiful sectional, in the color I wanted (green), and said it would ship in 3 business days. Obviously, I swiped up.

I fell in love with this couch. (I mean, just look at the sales page!) It boasts about easy assembly, cloud-soft comfort, and features an endless stream of positive reviews. There’s even a beautifully shot video of a pregnant woman lifting the couch into her home and putting it all together herself.

So we purchased.

Now, you don’t have to be a genius to know what comes next.

We were excited that the couch came in just a few weeks (as opposed to 6 months), and upon opening it up, the color was exactly as pictured. Absolutely stunning.

However, assembly was a NIGHTMARE. Like, not complicated, just physically difficult. It took three strong & NOT PREGNANT adults to snap the pieces into place. The assembly of the pieces seemed so incorrect that we had to email customer service—and they sent us a separate video that was NOT on the website that shows you the best way to get everything together.

And apart from that, it definitely is not cloud-soft.

Naturally, I was incredibly irritated & disappointed. And I couldn’t stop thinking about that false website sales page.

It would be easy to get mad at the marketers. But as a website designer, I know for a fact that whoever wrote & designed that website had NO idea that a lot of the information was false. Unless they were given a couch to try themselves (which I highly doubt), they’d have no idea.

The buck stops with the founder to give accurate information and ensure their brand & products are being represented in the most accurate light.

A More Truthful Solution

Now you might be thinking—”Well of course they’re going to tell you it’s easy to assemble. They want people to purchase! They HAVE to lie to sell their thing.”

I disagree.

When we finally got it all assembled, I was pleasantly surprised with how solid and sturdy the whole thing was. It might have been a bitch to assemble, but now that it’s together, I’m confident that I could sit on this thing however I want—including on top of the back—and it would NEVER break.

Imagine if they had boasted THAT instead. With big furniture companies like Wayfair making cheap and easily breakable furniture, there’s definitely a market for something strong, sturdy, and lasting.

And while it isn’t cloud-soft, it is still pretty comfortable & supportive. Imagine if they had said “firm, supportive, and deep” instead of “plush, feathery, and cloud-like”. Less deceit, more truth, and still good marketing.

There’s a way to market your business & make it enticing while also being truthful.

So, what can be done?

Generally speaking, it’s not the job of the marketer to ensure a quality product or service. That’s the job of the founder, the Head of Product, and even in some cases, the supply chain head.

And in many cases, the marketers are not even in the same room as the product or service being sold—so, founder, it’s up to you to make sure the story is being told accurately.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

+ Is my marketing telling an accurate story?

+ Does my branding, photography, or videography look better than my product or service actually is?

+ Have I priced this appropriately for the quality of the product or service? (Pricing is marketing.)

+ How might I tell the truth AND market my biz well?

And what happens if you DON’T accurately represent your product or service?

You get Reddit threads like this one.

Don’t do this to your business. Represent your stuff accurately. Tell the truth.

Or, pay the price.

Hi, I'm Sarah Kleist.

Brand & web designer, personal brand strategist, and marketing educator obsessed with the power of connecting with audiences.



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