Econsultancy reported on a presentation by Doug Kessler at the Festival of Marketing 2014 in London on the topic of “Insane Honesty in Content Marketing.”

The article explains that “Essentially, it means sharing your weaknesses and showing them openly - putting your worst foot first. Sharing weaknesses and minus points makes the rest of marketing more believable.”

 Content Marketing B2BIt goes on “One thing honesty does is grabs people’s attention, something which can be difficult to achieve.”

Maybe, but isn’t it true that very often it’s the negative part of a narrative that sticks in the mind rather than the positive features? Don’t people automatically remember the bad bits rather than the good bits, especially if that’s what grabbed their attention in the first place!

Doug Kessler cites examples where an approach that seemed blatantly honest worked, such as the Avis ads started in the 1960s which admitted that the company was only number 2 in the car rental business. However, this statement is rapidly qualified by subsequent content citing the benefit to customers in that they worked harder to get their business.

So, with respect, we don’t believe that this content is “insanely honest” at all. It demonstrates a tactic of being strategically truthful, using facts that are not obviously favourable and instantly turning them to advantage.

He might also have mentioned the more recent successful Marmite ads that depict the product as not being to everyone’s taste, but that some people love it. In this case, it highlights the characteristic of the product as being an acquired taste. This is not a flaw in the product but a key differentiator. It also signals to people who don’t like Marmite that they might be missing out on something!

Both these examples represent clever, honest promotional ideas. This is quite different from pursuing a one-strategy-fits-all approach to content marketing that emphasises weaknesses and mistakes. “Insane Honesty in Content Marketing” may be a headline grabbing title for a presentation but, in our opinion, that’s where its value ends.

Content marketing is much too important and much too multi-faceted for simplistic all-embracing labels and policies to be attached to it. Also, unless carefully handled, flirtation with negativity can have very damaging consequences.

For instance, a couple of years ago, the Mirror published a list of its 10 top business gaffes which it called “Doing a Ratner.” This refers to the famous gaffe by Gerald Ratner in 1991 at an Institute of Directors event, when he spoke about selling “total crap” in his jewellery shops. It led to a catastrophic fall in sales and nearly caused the company to collapse.

He was of course talking tongue in cheek, but the irreparable harm was done.

BBI Brandboost believes in delivering honest content that tells the right story for the right business. We pride ourselves on excellence rather than insanity! Contact us on 01494 452600, by email or via the Live Chat function on our website to discuss how we can support content marketing strategies for your business.


By Ronnie Gunn