eMarketer reports on a report by Burson-Marstellar about company message distortion in social media. I have some mixed feeling about this report.
I think, first off, marketers lie. Embellish. We go to great lengths to make ourselves look good. We’ve always done that. That’s nothing new and I wouldn’t exactly call it news.
I wouldn’t say that all marketers are unethical. It’s really that marketing is all about taking a truth and making it hyperbolic. Extend the benefits, if you will.
But I have a little bit of an issue with some of the conclusions drawn from this report. I’ll let eMarketer tell it in their own words:
According to the report, bloggers tended to include “opinions, personal experience, knowledge of competitors and products, and speculation.”
Seriously? Opinions, personal experience and knowledge of competitors? That’s distortion? Come on!
Marketing is all about opinions, personal experience and setting yourself apart from the competition. That’s what it’s always been. So I really don’t get what this is about. If this is the basis for the final conclusion that marketers are distorting their message then it’s a bogus report.
If you’re old enough then you likely remember the Pepsi Challenge commercials. They were obviously skewed in favor of Pepsi. Of course, I can’t help to think that some of the people who took those taste tests actually preferred Coke over Pepsi. But none of them ever made it to the public eye. Why not? Because it would have been self defeating for Pepsi, who bankrolled those commercials as an investment in its own product, to show that some people actually preferred Coke over Pepsi.
Now, I’m not saying the commercials were misleading. I have no doubt that many real people actually did prefer Pepsi over Coke. Their preferences were aired in the commercials that were so obviously self serving. Had they been Coke commercials then I’m sure we’d have been seeing real people show their preference for Coke instead of Pepsi.
That’s what marketing is all about. Showing how you differ from the competition and using opinions, personal experience and other types of subjective anecdotes is all a part of that. If bloggers do that more than anyone else then isn’t it because the medium encourages it?
Bottom line for me: Blog marketing is about positioning yourself in front of your audience in a positive light. You don’t have to be outright dishonest to do that, but do put your best foot forward.