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Posted by on Oct 2, 2012 | 0 comments

Beyond Truthiness in Advertising

review of "Tell the Truth: Honesty is Your Most Powerful Marketing Tool" by Chuck Kent

My well-tabbed copy of “Tell the Truth” shows that there’s much to discuss between these covers

A few years ago, comedian/social commentator Stephen Colbert coined the exceptionally apt phrase “truthiness” to describe the political/commercial/cultural corruption of the entire concept of telling the truth in America,  lampooning the growing preference given to opinion and feeling over fact.

In their relatively new – and, I believe, important – book Tell the Truth:  Honesty is Your Most Powerful Marketing Tool,”  Sue Unerman and Jonathan Salem Baskin take on the topic of truth and its absolute importance to marketing, offering this fairly optimistic conclusion:   “More and more marketers are turning away from easily constructed spin and digging deep in to the truth of their brands. We believe that in five years we’ll look back on the art of spin as an anachronism.”

While I can’t agree with their conclusion, I encourage everyone to read their often enlightening book (that light emanating from a number of good interview-based case histories), because I do agree with the statement that immediately follows it: “The truth is the future of successful advertising.”  In fact, I would expand that to read “Truth is the future of advertising – and the lack of it will be end of advertising.”

Signs of the End:  Surveys Predict the Adpocalypse
If you track the various trust-related surveys, you know that the trend is advertising trust is down.  Way down.  You can see it in Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages, and in Edelman’s Brand Trust Barometer.  The only way to change that direction is to build trust; and the only way to do that is to start by telling, and showing, the truth.  Unless we do that, start looking for advertising trust in the single digits – and also start looking for a new job.

Highlights of “Tell the Truth”
I’m glad to say that there are two many meaty issues raised by this book to be adequately condensed into a manageable review, but even a look at the table of contents will give you a good overview of their observations and recommendations:

The Case for Truth


  1. Acknowledge Reality
  2. Deliver Real Change to Services and Company Structure
  3. Take Consumers on the Brand Truth Journey with You
  4. Enlist Third-Party Advocates


  1. Be close
  2. Find a Truth Turning Point
  3. Use Point-of-Action Media
  4. Leverage Routine
As you can tell from the photo of my well-tabbed copy of Tell the Truth, there is much worth discussing here.  I suggest you get a copy for yourself and those you work with, and start a conversation that could well determine the success of your advertising and marketing efforts

 Note:   I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher after I commented, in another copyklatsch post, on an abstract of it. I have no financial or other material interest in the book.


Review of “Tell the Truth:  Honesty is Your Most Powerful Marketing Tool”
Branding Magazine



  1. Review: "Tell the Truth" in Advertising? | Branding Magazine - [...] Beyond “Truthiness” in Advertising 2012 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer BY…

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