Truth AND Consequences
When you meet or even exceed expectations, you gain trust. Doing the opposite also has consequences.
You may be too young to get this reference.
That isn’t a compliment; it’s a fact — the game show Truth or Consequences got its start on radio in 1941, with Ralph Edwards hosting. It moved to television in 1954 with Jack Bailey until 1956, and then Bob Barker (hey—there’s a name you might recognize!) hosted it until 1975.
It was basically a broadcast version of the old parlor game Truth or Dare. A contestant is selected, and they either have to answer a question correctly or perform a stunt. As you can imagine, it was designed for the audience’s entertainment.
As observers and audience members, this is perfect. We love to see people get embarrassed. In many cases on that show, people would purposefully answer the question wrong in order to get embarrassed by the stunt.
But when you’re a consumer, the last thing you want is to feel humiliated or embarrassed.
If you’re paying for a service or product, you want what you're told you’ll be getting. It’s about meeting expectations.
Not So Mm-Mm Good
In the ’Sixties and ’Seventies, the food advertising industry took a turn. It used to be a free-for-all — using motor oil for syrup, Crisco as a stand-in for ice cream, etc. — until Heinz wanted to break up Campbell’s stranglehold on the soup industry.
So the Heinz folks filed a complaint with the FTC, revealing that Campbell’s put marbles in bowls of soup to make it look more appealing. The result was food advertising regulations that require more attention to realistic presentations.
Watch for Falling Sizes
Back in the ’Nineties and early ’Aughts, margins got squeezed in the CPG industry. Brands could only raise prices so much because of price sensitivity. So they did the next obvious thing: they shrunk the package sizes. Voilà, Instant margins!
Remember that half-gallon of ice cream or orange juice you used to get? Check your containers. Because you’re now getting not 64 ounces.
The manufacturers very slyly moved you to getting used to 59 ounces. And now? That “half gallon” of ice cream is 48 oz. — just a quart and a half!
The App Made Me Do It
When you signed up for Facebook, you didn’t expect your data was going to be abused. When you bought your Volkswagen, you didn’t think you'd be adding extra pollution to the environment. When you tipped your DoorDash driver, you didn’t think the company would skim those tips for themselves.
Hey, you know the saying: You can't spell ‘tech’ without ‘ethics.’ Oh, wait. Yes you can.
We’re at a point where Big Tech isn’t innovating; it’s exploiting people. (WSJ-paywall link)
In every one of those cases, not only were expectations not met, they were laughed at, spit on, and thrown out. And then maybe run over by a bus.
What happened in each instance above is exactly what happens every time: someone uncovered the truth.
Thousands — maybe millions — of people felt violated.
When my parents raised me, they impressed this upon me: If I got in trouble (in school, around the neighborhood, etc.) they wanted to hear it from me first. If they found out from a teacher, a neighbor or someone else, then I'd be in trouble for that, plus what I was in trouble for in the first place.
A little transparency can go a long way.
You don’t have to reveal your secret ingredients, your patent, or your code. But if you take customers along on the journey with you, they’ll appreciate the honesty.
If you need to make a chance to pricing, packaging, product design, or anything else that's going to affect the consumer, communicate it clearly and honestly.
Honesty leads to transparency.
Transparency leads to trust.
Trust leads to loyalty.
Loyalty means lower churn—of customers and employees.
Isn’t that a more efficient and ethical way to pursue growth?
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.