Seth Godin wrote a book called "All marketers are liars". Ouch - sometimes we marketers get a reputation as snake-oil salesmen. You know - the guys that will "bend" the the truth to sell anything.
There's a new trend in marketing called "stealth marketing" which is a new way of saying you hide who the message comes from. The Blair Witch Project was an astounding success with stealth marketing. Before the movie came out there were fake bulletin board posts and web sites talking about the fake legend the movie is based on. It built buzz and people didn't seem to mind being duped a little in the name of entertainment.
People seem to be getting sick of being fooled. In this post on Adrants they out a stealth marketing campaign, and point to study by BuzzAgent that people are starting to hate this stuff. BuzzAgent itself used to do a lot of stealth marketing disguised as consumer praise.
As shocking as they might be, I'm a big fan of Axe body-spray ads. While it is clear hyperbole that you spray the stuff on and women from a 10 block radius attack you, the ad recognizes what the consumer wants an puts it out front. If you are a straight guy cologne, body spray, etc. is for attracting women. For the Axe target market, males in the 21-30 year old range, it's all they think about. (Trust me, I was that young and single once)
There is recent crop of Nutrisystem weight loss commercials out for men. I say brilliant, since most every other weight loss system is geared towards women. The ads feature testimonials from a number of guys several of which make comments like, "my sex life has been incredible since I lost all the weight." Again - go for what the target audience wants. In general women want to look great and fit into that dress. For men, it's all about being attractive, powerful, and having a great sex life.
As long as the product or service delivers - put it up front. Don't hide the benefits people care about. Don't hide who you are.
This is my problem with the majority of multi-level marketing systems out there. They don't tell you about who they are or what they do up front. Many of them sell crappy products that you don't want, so they don't talk about the products. They all try to rook you in by telling you can retire on residual income in 7 years without saying what you have to do. They delay giving you details as long as possible. Yes there are a few great MLM businesses out there with fantastic products, but most of them are snake oil.
If you're like the majority of people, marketing that's authentic, clear, and up-front. I like to call this translucent marketing. Sure, you are going to put your best foot forward, but you're also going to help educate your customers so they know buying from you is the best possible choice. If you're a mom and pop operation - that's fine. Don't try to look like WalMart in your marketing.
You can make advertising look like editorial, but it should be clear to a customer that it is advertising. People who feel duped are not in a buying mood.
J D Moore - Marketing Comet