Fool others and you fool yourself

Why brands should communicate honestly with their audiences.

April Fool’s is nearly here. It’s a day in which we try to prank and deceive our friends, co-workers and other people, but in a fairly harmless, fun-filled way (hopefully, at least).

However, trying to fool and deceive people is never an option for brands. It may have worked a few decades ago but, in this day and age, it’s inadmissible and highly ineffective. On the contrary, brands should always strive to have an honest and open communication with their customers and collaborators, and here’s why:

1. You can’t fool anyone, anyway

Not in this digital era, when any information is just a few clicks away. If you try to lie or conceal important information, chances are you’re going to get caught red-handed really fast. And, when that happens, the repercussions will be quite significant. Not only can consumers easily find out what you’re doing wrong, but they can also easily spread the word about it to a huge number of people.

So, don’t lie, don’t ignore problems and don’t sugar coat things. Your audiences are smart and, if you underestimate their intelligence and try to fool them, they’ll be angry. This applies not only when there are things you would rather hide, but also when you make a claim that is not actually true. Which leads us to reason No. 2.

2. Your audiences appreciate honesty

An October 2014 study on authentic brands by Cohn & Wolfe found that the No. 1 quality or behavior that people demand of big brands is communicating honestly about products and services. This means that you shouldn’t make unsubstantiated claims about the products or services you offer.

Brands try to position themselves as the best option, so they often exaggerate the benefits the consumers will receive after interacting with the brand. But, whether through reviews, personal experience or other means, consumers will know if your brand delivers accordingly or not and any incongruence between reality and the brand’s (idealistic) promise will only upset them and amplify their skepticism.

On the flipside, brands that “do what they say and say what they do” will be perceived as trustworthy and worthy of consumers’ long-term loyalty. These aspects are essential, especially for the Millennial and Generation Z segments, who will also appreciate the following aspect.

3. Being honest makes your brand more human

Besides trustworthiness, the above mentioned demographic segments want to create a personal connection with their favorite brands and want to be spoken with instead of being spoken to. Being honest helps you sound more colloquial and more like a person than a company.

Furthermore, being honest will make it easier for your brand to have the same voice across multiple channels and over a long time span. Brands that are honest don’t end up sounding like they have split personalities, corporate and old-fashioned in one medium and friendly and hip in another, for example. A consistent voice makes it more likely for a brand to be perceived as a human and for consumers to establish a meaningful relationship with it.

As a short example…

Remember the iconic “We try harder” tagline adopted in 1962 by Avis (the second largest car rental company in the United States at that time)? One of the many reasons it worked and gained fame over the years is the honesty behind it.

It admits an uncomfortable truth (being in second place), it reframes it in a positive way (being in that position fuels their determination) and makes a promise to the consumers (their determination to succeed will translate into greater attention towards their customers’ needs). In addition, it has an anthropomorphic effect on the brand, aligning it with the image of an underdog team. And who doesn’t like cheering for the underdogs?

This is a great example of how honest communication can work in favor of a brand because it doesn’t try to hide the problem under a rug or behind smoke and mirrors. Instead, it owns up to it and promises to do something about it. In the meantime, it gets people rooting for the brand because of its authenticity and boldness.

So, plan out your pranks for this April Fool’s Day and your honest brand communication for all year round. If you need help with the latter (maybe also the former), just let us know. And always remember: “Honesty is the best policy”.


Yours sincerely (yes, that was intentional),

Alina Andreica