Companies get in trouble when they think that they are smarter and slicker than their customers. The most recent example is WalMart. A blog appeared on the scene in that told the the story of a charming couple that WalMarts across America talking to happy, friendly WalMartians. Happy travelers. Happy employees. Business reality at its best–except for one small detail. The whole thing was a put-on from WalMart and its PR firm. Business Week broke the story and explains the issues here. WalMart Story As a result of trying to pass of promotion as an honest travelog from consumers, WalMart gaves itself a big black eye. They suffered from a silly delusion that no one would figure out that these happy wanderers were really WalMart PR people.
If you’ve read this blog over time, you’ll know that I am a big fan of companies telling the truth to their consumers. There are several reasons first and foremost because telling the truth in a considerate way is the basis of every long-term relationship whether in your business or personal life. But if that’s not enough, tell the truth because in the end it’s going to come out anyway and the story is always better and more beneficial when you tell it than when disgruntled employees or customers do the storytelling.
In the new age of the internet, many lines are blurred including the one between advertising and editorial. Information from retailers and vendors can be of great use to consumers but its source must be clearly identified. Great companies are built on a foundation of trust and trust is built on a foundation of telling the truth.