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How Insanely Honest Marketing Can Actually Get You More Business

By vivian on October 15, 2015

insanely honest marketing

Does your business have a weakness or a drawback? I’m sure it does. I mean, honestly – You might be good, but you can’t possibly get everything perfect every single time and satisfy every possible need that your customers might have!

Maybe you’re new and don’t have as much experience as your competitors. Maybe your location is not as desirable. Or you are priced higher because your operating cost is high.

The marketing rule book will tell you to try to hide or downplay these weaknesses. The problem is that today’s consumers are really savvy and will sniff out any attempts to hide or cover up these drawbacks. With access to online reviews and social media, the ugly side of virtually any business can no longer be swept under the rugs.

It’s time to throw away the rule book and move toward insanely honest marketing.

If you’re still wondering how insane can honest marketing can actually be, here’s one of my favorite honest advert to get the idea going on:

No cover up. Just pure honesty!

Insanely Honest Marketing Case Study:
Insanely Honest Results

If you think honest marketing is nothing more than shooting yourself in the foot, here's 5 proof to show you How Honest Marketing Give Businesses Real Results!

The Benefits of Insanely Honest Marketing

Exposing your weakness and flaws does sound a little bit insane. I mean why the hell would anybody wants to do that when everyone else is competing in flaunting the best, the cheapest and the fastest.

Funny because that’s exactly why insanely honest marketing works – It get heads turning. To quote a famous saying by Thornton Wilder – In advertising, not to be different is virtual suicide.

So let’s go through the reason why you should throw some insanely honest marketing into the mix:

1. Honest Marketing Give You The Business You Want

If you practice insanely honest marketing, won’t this scare away customers? Sure it will! The customers for whom these drawbacks are a significant issue will go elsewhere.

honest marketing alienates bad customers

“What kind of food is this? Where’s the burgers?”

But guess what? You probably don’t want these customers anyway. You will not be able to serve them well, so sending them elsewhere helps them and helps you.

It helps them because they will ultimately not be able to get what they want from you. And it helps you because you will not have to deal with an unhappy customer who is disappointed with what you have provided.

Honest marketing alienates the people that you don’t want as customers. This in turn reduces disruption and allows you to focus on those who really matters.

2. Honest Marketing Foster Trust

Honest marketing makes people trust you. If you cover up your faults, people will go looking for them. Then, they will post them somewhere online. People are going to find out about your weaknesses anyway. Transparency is your friend here.

if you don't do honest marketing, someone else will do it for you.

If you aren’t honest about your own weaknesses, don’t worry. Someone else will.

When you let people know some of the disadvantages of using your service and how to cope with or overcome them, then people are going to trust you. It shows that you care about your customers and will do your best to make things right for them, including sending them elsewhere if you can’t do the job.

People want to buy from businesses that they trust. Honest marketing will pay off in the long run.

The prospective customers who are not deterred by your honest marketing are really your ideal customers who are more likely to buy and be happy with their purchase. These are the people you want to have as customers. They really want what you offer and will be your best advocates in the future.

3. Honest Marketing Is Charming

People like honest marketing. It is refreshing when someone tells the honest truth without pulling punches. Consumers are so used to businesses bragging about their products and services that they find it surprising and even charming when a business can poke fun at itself. So don’t be afraid to show some of your warts.

honest marketing by ugli

Take this not-so-attractive office building. The owners decided to flaunt the ugly exterior and promise a lovely interior space. They have a little fun at their own expense and at the same time let their potential customers know about an obvious drawback to their space.

When a potential customer shows up to inspect the space, they are going to see the ugly exterior. You can’t miss it. But if you expect it when you drive up, your first reaction is not going to be about how ugly the building is. Instead, you might chuckle because the owners have already made a joke out of it. Then you can focus on how lovely they have made the interior.

4. Honest Marketing Shows Confidence

Only a truly confident person can point out his own flaws. The same goes for a business. The fact that you know what you can’t do shows people that you are confident in what you can do. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, it is better to decide what you are going to focus on and don’t promise any more than that.

hans brinker honest marketing

Kinda makes you wonder – Can it be that bad?

Honesty is especially appropriate in content marketing. People who are searching the Internet want to know the truth about your business, and they know how to spot a fraud. If you incorporate insanely honest marketing in your content strategy, then you will attract more solid leads to your business because people will see that you are authentic.

5. Your Weaknesses Can Be Used To Highlight Your Strength

insane honesty usually means insane strength

By telling people that you acknowledge your weaknesses, not only you save them the trouble of pointing them to you, but it also give you the chance to let them know first-hand, how are you going to make up for it. It might sound crazy but sometimes, it may be to your advantage to point out your weaknesses.

  • Your lack of experience may mean that you are hungry and will try harder to satisfy your customers.
  • Your unsightly facilities can be turned into a joke and make you seem unique.
  • Your higher prices indicates that your customers are going to get the highest quality.

Applying Honesty Into Content Marketing

Same concept can also be applied into your Content Marketing strategy. Here’s some great ways on doing it:

Honest Titles

The title is one of the most important parts of a piece of content. It is the hook that helps the reader decide whether he or she wants to go ahead and read the rest of the content. But it is easy to go over the top.

honest titles are preferable over clickbait title

Honestly, overblown click-bait titles are getting old.

Clickbait-style headlines abound all over the Internet today. These sensational headlines are meant to entice people to click through to the content, but often don’t really accurately represent the article.

People are becoming immune to these headlines that really don’t deliver any useful content. So stop writing headlines like “7 Ways to Make a Million Dollar in a Week! And You Won’t Believe Number 5.”

Instead, you might try a few really honest headlines. It does work and it doesn’t have to be boring either. For example in Inbound.org, a lot of top articles are actual experiences that also includes the writers admitting their struggles and flaws:

Honest Contents

The key element to content marketing is creating content that has value to your audience. If you exaggerate the value of your content, then people will be disappointed when they go to read your content and find that it does not really deliver what you promised.

Backing up your points with real results in honest content marketing will make your contents both helpful and believable.

Backing up your points with real results will make your contents both helpful and believable.

So avoid content that makes big promises that you can’t possibly fulfill. Saying that something will change your entire life or earn you millions of dollars are over the top and your readers will know it. You lose credibility when you make these promises.

A good way of doing this is by sharing actual advices that is derived from your own experiences and the results you yourself gained.

Honest Opt-Ins

Take a look at the content site known as Wait But Why. If you wait a minute, an opt-in box will pop up, but this is not your typical opt-in. It boldly proclaims that honest truth: No one likes pop ups. But then it goes to suggest that since you are already looking at one, you might as well subscribe to their email list. And it sets the right expectations: you will receive two to four emails a month.

honest marketing opt-in

But you’re bugging me with one!

The entire site is a paragon of honest marketing. With its self-deprecating humor, stick-figure graphics and edgy content, the producers of this site clearly know how to make fun of themselves. So they use a pop up to grow their subscriber list while at the same time acknowledging that pop ups are annoying to most people. It is a great way to get people to sign up with a little humor in the process.

I know it works because it gets me signing up.

Insanely Honest Advertising

Advertisers have long realized the value of honest marketing. Take Avis, the car rental company. In 1962, they found that they were the second best rental company in terms of market share. Instead of hiding this fact, they put it front and center. Their ads claimed that they had to try harder in order to improve and beat their competition. “We Try Harder” continues to be their slogan today.

Honest marketing by Avis

We are only No.2, so we try harder – Avis

Another famously honest advertising campaign promotes the Volkswagon Beetle. It did not have the sleek lines of its competitors so its marketing took a different approach embracing the ugliness of the little car. One ad claims that “ugly is only skin deep” and boasts that beneath the quirky exterior is a high performance engine that needs little maintenance and a comfy interior with lots of leg room.

Honest marketing by volkswagen

The inside is all that matters.

By promoting the unique look of the Beetle, VW draws attention to its best features as well. You can try the same approach with any online advertising that you do. Whether it is banner ads, sponsored social media posts or pay-per-click, you can apply the same principles to your ad campaigns.

Honest Email Marketing

I previously mentioned how Wait But Why (I’m going to refer them as WBW from now on) made me signed up into their email subscribers list. I’m surprised that upon signing up, I received a welcome email that honestly tells important objectives that marketers trying to achieve when doing email marketing. Here’s how the email look:

wait but why honest marketing email

Most marketers will just settle for the default “Thank you for subscribing” message but not these guys. I’m impressed by the fact that they basically asked me to do a lot of things for them, but in a way so right, I really feel like helping them. They got right what most email marketers don’t even realize:

  • Spam folders – WBW realize that sign-ups doesn’t necessarily mean a win if you end up in the spam folder. Not only they honestly admit it but they also gracefully request for exception.
  • Email as a way to drive in traffic – Unlike other marketers, WBW send their complete articles through the email. They acknowledge that while they really want traffic to their site, readers will also benefit from doing that by getting better formatted articles and some other extras.
  • No reply policy – A lot of email marketers won’t reply emails and the usual way of telling this is by bluntly using a noreply@email.com. For WBW though, they put it gently by saying you can send us emails and we will read it, but we might not respond to it.Inconvenient? Maybe. But it’s better than saying nothing and readers get an automated no reply message in return.
  • Selling – WBW didn’t wait long before promoting stuff they sell. But they didn’t create a fancy email telling you how buying their stuff will change your life forever.
  • Unsubscribe option – Email marketers usually pretend that the unsubscribe option doesn’t exist and only include them because it’s mandatory. Some even go as far as making the unsubscribe button least visible as possible or making the process super hard.WBW just casually remark that you can easily do it anytime and it will only break their heart. Might be fishing for sympathy but in most cases, it’s the honest truth.


The old adage that honesty is the best policy prevails in content marketing. Insanely honest marketing will gender trust in your readers and attract your promising customers. So throw away the marketing rule book and start being brutally honest.

Do you think this article is honest enough? Do share your honest thoughts in the comment section!

Insanely Honest Marketing Case Study:
Insanely Honest Results

If you think honest marketing is nothing more than shooting yourself in the foot, here's 5 proof to show you How Honest Marketing Give Businesses Real Results!

Updated: 19 July 2024


About Vivian

Vivian is an anthropologist lost in the world of digital marketing. She has an interest in learning about the science of marketing and the creativity that businesses use to transform themselves into purple cows.

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