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For reasons having to do with habit and custom more than anything else, marketers today are still mired in the notion that marketing and bragging are inseparably linked.

They think that good marketing means exaggerated claim-making--that no strategic marketer would ever take a position in the marketplace that didn't involve being the best or the smartest or the most innovative; that tactical marketers must be sure that every scrap of collateral they make must stake a claim for biggest or strongest or fastest.

Honestly, do you think anyone really believes that?

I mean, maybe it works for shoelaces or bar soap. But do you think that works for your products and your company? Do you believe that stuff when you read it from other companies?

Maybe that worked at one time--way back in the Space Age. But the marketplace is smarter today and the web makes it so easy for people to find out whether you're telling the truth, without asking you. It's a cakewalk to find out exactly how much Hogwash a company is spreading.

Here's a simple example. The other day I came across this gem from a company's executive management section at their web site:

An internationally renowned film director and businesswoman, [name] started her career in Paris in 1968.

I was very intrigued. Until I did 90 seconds worth of checking.

I popped over to Google and entered the executive's name. I expected to find a list of films, and a fair amount of press, and other mentions of her 35-year career from around the world. I expected that because that's what the company told me to expect.

What did I find?

Nothing. Five entries from the engine: two pointed me to the page I had just read, and the other three had nothing to do with her.

The conclusion I reached was obvious. This person is not internationally renowned, and clearly hasn't made a film worth mentioning anywhere across the Internet. Someone's playing with the facts here. And that simple online search positioned them in my mind: Hogwashers.

Once I hit Hogwash, I begin to question everything else that a company claims, no matter how true it may be.

From their list of awards to their list of customers. From their partners to their privacy policy. And that means that it's going to be that much harder for them to sell me. There's that much more resistance they'll have to break though. And sales resistance is what they're supposed to remove, not build up. (Imagine it's you on the sales call when I say, "So what is this business about the internationally renowned film director…" and you have to stumble through an inadequate answer--meaning: you have to eventually let me know it really is just another truckload of Marketing Hogwash.)

How simple it would be to avoid it:

A film director and businesswoman, [name] started her career in Paris in 1968.

No less intriguing (at least to me). And much more credible.

OK. Time to turn inward. What about your company? What's your Hogwash Factor? How much damage--subtle and not so subtle--are you doing to your company credibility by making unsupportable claims? How many of you are claiming to be "the leading provider of..." when you could, as does IBM for instance, claim to be "a leader in..."

And if you are one of the Hogwashers ask yourself: Why? Why risk being called to task for unsupported claims? Why make statements your sales force will eventually have to apologize for in one way or another? Why not tell it like it is?

If your offering and company can stand up in the marketplace, why not let them? Are you convinced that if you don't say you're the best product on the market no one else will? Or that if someone reads your collateral and you haven't made that claim, they're going to do business with a company that does?

Is that how you approach a buying process: will you only do business with companies that claim to be leaders or best or most or greatest or biggest?

I bet not. I bet you think and compare and question and analyze before you buy. I bet you take a look at the enormous loads of unsupportable claims that companies shovel at you day in and day out and either get negative about the company, or simply ignore it all. I bet you're too smart to swallow Hogwash.

Want to know something? Your customers are too.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Michael Fischler

Michael Fischler is founder and principal coach and consultant of Markitek (markitek.com), which for over a decade has provided marketing consulting and coaching services to companies around the world, from startups and SMEs to giants like Kodak and Pirelli. You can contact him by clicking here.