Building trust by revealing negatives

Truth Concept

Half a century ago, Avis revolutionized car rental marketing by openly stating it wasn’t the best company in its field. The company admitted in advertising ‘we are number two,’ but that means ‘the line at our counter is shorter and we will work harder’.

Avis needed this brave advertisement to make a big impact – the company had just racked up its 13th consecutive annual loss of $3.2 million (in 1962). The advertisement was a big success. It saved the company from financial disaster and allowed the entire car rental industry to flourish.

Avis understood the power of carefully-worded honesty to grab the attention of the audience and more importantly, to generate a positive response/sales. However, there are still many modern-day examples of traditional advertising and public relations overtly focusing on presenting a positive image.

With the age of social media and review websites, there’s a demand for businesses to be more transparent. The general public has a voice thanks to the digital era, with people increasingly skeptical of ‘sales talk’. Social media allows businesses to talk directly to their customers, so companies must re-think their messages and craft more honest, personalized messages, in order to strive.

Building trust in a positive but honest way is key

Let’s look at the travel industry as an example. Some tourist boards still encourage people to visit their destination year-round, but that message just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s far more effective if travel companies provide honest, informative advice, such as: ‘April to June is the rainy season, so you may experience short downpours through the day – but also fewer tourists’.

The boutique accommodation provider,, is a great example of how to build trust with consumers. The company – which has a solid reputation for renting out a hand-picked portfolio of boutique hotels, B&Bs and houses – develops trust with its audience by listing the highs and lows of every property.

For example, the Moroccan country escape ‘The Calpadi’ has ‘charming and unpretentious hosts’ but ‘apart from the hotel restaurant, there are no other restaurants within walking distance’ and ‘no children under 12 are allowed’ (of course, some people might consider the last ‘low’ point an advantage!).

This simple feature has surely contributed to i-escape’s success and loyal customer-base. In order for businesses to get ahead, honesty really is the best policy. No individual or business is perfect and by being more open, a company seems more personable, real and ultimately, more successful.

What do you think about honesty in advertising? Let us know your thought’s by commenting below or by reaching out to us on Twitter or Facebook.

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Guest bloggers for the TDS Business Blog.

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