Honesty and Integrity in Content Marketing

Stephen DeAngelis

August 20, 2021

Consumers are weary of marketers and the campaigns they create. Who can blame them? From the salesmen claiming their snake oil was a cure for most ills, to tobacco companies using physicians to push their products, to health supplements touting dubious results from using their products, consumers have endured a lifetime of non-factual, even untruthful, claims about products. Today’s younger consumers, are looking for authentic voices and fact-based advertising to inspire their loyalty. Content marketing is one way to attract younger consumers — if the content is truthful. Joel Malkoff, who calls himself the Ethics Giver, reports, “Customer trust in business is eroding: 69% of customers do not trust advertisements, and 71% do not trust sponsored ads on social media, according to a nationwide poll. Customers used to trust salespeople and advertisements to guide them in their buying decisions. No longer: today, we trust colleagues, friends, family, and third-party reviewers.”[1]

 

The Moral Imperative to Tell the Truth

 

Malkoff writes, “A business concept called caveat emptor — ‘let the buyer beware’ — states that it is the buyer’s responsibility to perform due diligence. However, it is the seller’s responsibility — caveat venditor, or ‘let the seller beware’ — to provide full disclosure to the buyer by not lying, concealing defects, or advertising with misleading or ambiguous statements. An advertiser can easily state half-truths and thus allow a customer to come to the wrong conclusions. But, as they say, ‘A half-truth is a whole lie.’ The seller has an obligation to be honest and transparent. And when a seller is honest and transparent, sales and marketing win customers’ trust.” In other words, the content found in advertising needs to be backstopped by companies with honesty and integrity.

 

It may seem counterintuitive to launch an advertising campaign that does not specifically promote a brand or product; but, in some cases, that is exactly what content marketing is about. Content marketing involves the creation and sharing of online material (e.g., videos, blogs, podcasts, and tweets) intended to stimulate interest in products or services — often without specifically promoting them. Many analysts believe content marketing is the next big thing in advertising because millennials and Gen Zers want to be informed rather than being pitched to. If your company or brand becomes the go-to source of good (i.e., truthful) information on a specific subject, you create unmatched brand loyalty.

 

Dallin Porter (@dallinporter6), Communications Manager at Galactic Fed, assumes some organizations are unfamiliar with content marketing. He writes, “It’s first helpful to identify what we mean when we say a ‘content marketing strategy.’ Our eyes and ears are flooding daily with the C-word, and it’s hard to differentiate what is helpful, what converts people into customers, and what is just noise. Let’s take it straight from the source — the Content Marketing Institute (who would seem like they know what they’re talking about) says that a content marketing strategy is a ‘strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.’ … Your focus could be lead generation, audience education, or customer retention — or, all of the above. Without setting relevant and achievable goals that align with the overall marketing strategy, your content will be in vain.”[2] It will also be in vain if the content isn’t truthful.

 

Developing a Strong Content Management Strategy

 

Since Enterra Solutions® primarily works with consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, I was interested to read what technology and marketing writer Liz Alton (@Beinglizzie) had to say about content marketing in the CPG sector. She writes, “Companies that sell consumer packaged goods traditionally address two key challenges with their marketing strategies. The first is standing out in a crowded, competitive market; the other is creating demand for new products. Increasingly, these efforts happen on digital battlegrounds. To generate fresh demand, a CPG marketing strategy must approach content and competition in new ways — and that’s never been truer than in the wake of the pandemic.”[3] Porter notes the first step in any content marketing strategy is to “research what your audience wants.” That might not be as easy as it sounds.

 

Alton explains, “Any discussion of marketing or demand generation within the CPG industry today requires taking a step back to understand how COVID-19 reshaped CPG brands. Initially, brands faced panic buying and rapidly scaling demand for items that left shelves bare and customers scrambling. Anticipating changes in consumer buying habits proved impossible as radical shifts hit the market weekly or monthly.” Fortunately, there is help. Cognitive technologies can use the latest data to help CPG companies understand new and changing patterns. To help our clients better understand changing consumer behavior and market conditions, we developed the Enterra Global Insights and Optimization System™ as a complement to the Enterra Shopper Marketing and Consumer Insights Intelligence System™. Understanding changes to the market and consumer behavior is important because, as Alton reports, “The changes introduced by the pandemic — from a rise in online shopping to more flexible brand loyalty — are set to stick around.”

 

Understanding what customers want and providing them with accurate information so they can make informed choices lies at the heart of a strong content marketing strategy. Alton asserts, “To stay relevant and connected, CPG brands are embracing content marketing, and direct-to-consumer messaging and delivery … in order to get people excited about a product release and generate demand.” Malkoff notes, “It is difficult to track integrity investments, because many factors, such as product demand, distribution, and competition, can confuse the calculation.” By “integrity investments,” he means marketing efforts that are ethically-based, accurate, and informative. Although tracking ROI on integrity investments may be difficult, getting caught in a single lie or unethical situation can irreparably affect a company’s reputation. On the other hand, Malkoff reports, “Lynn Upshaw, a member of the marketing faculty of the Haas School of Business, makes clear, the metrics of [return on marketing integrity] are worth the effort because they: Help you learn why customers stay loyal; yield new ways to attract new customers; develop competitive strategies; reduce expenses; [and] protect brand equity during times of scrutiny. The bottom line is that marketing integrity increases profitability.” Porter provides his view of how a strong content marketing strategy can help make businesses more profitable.

 

 

Concluding Thoughts

 

Peter Altschuler (@peteraltschuler), CEO of Wordsworth & Company, concludes, “[Content marketing is] a fascinating undertaking because there’s always something new to consider, someone new to win over, some competitor that’s sure to be a threat. There will also be new media to use, technologies to adopt, and processes to modify to ensure that you’re giving people the information they need in the form they prefer at the time that they want it.”[4] In the months and years ahead, the truthfulness and accuracy of the content your company creates is likely to come under greater scrutiny. To keep current customers and attract new ones, you want to ensure that the honesty and integrity of your company is never in doubt.

 

Footnotes
[1] Joel Malkoff, “Why Honesty and Integrity Pay: The Benefits of Truth-Based Marketing,” MarketingProfs, 15 April 2021.
[2] Dallin Porter, “B2B SaaS Content Marketing: Everything You Need to Know,” Galactic Fed Blog, 28 July 2020.
[3] Liz Alton, “How CPG Marketing and Content Strategy Drive Lasting Product Demand,” Skyword, 12 May 2021.
[4] Peter Altschuler, “Content Marketing: The New Name for a Well-Established Discipline,” MarketingProfs, 9 February 2021.