Velocity's Doug Kessler spoke at the Festival of Marketing today on the topic of 'Insane Honesty in Content Marketing'. 

As Doug explained, mere honesty is something that should be a given in marketing, for ethical reasons, but insane honesty is a choice.

Essentially, it means sharing your weaknesses and showing them openly. Putting your worst foot first.

Sharing weaknesses and minus points makes the rest of the marketing much more believable. 

Doug provided six reasons for insane honesty, with some great examples. 

1. It surprises and delights 

One thing honesty does is grabs people's attention, something which can be difficult to achieve. 

Avis' ads from the '60s onwards are one such example. In terms of market share, the company was way behind its rival Hertz.

Rather than pretending to be the same as its rival, it made a virtue of its market position, describing how it tried harder as a result. 

2. It signals confidence

VW's sixties ads are a great example. The car was maybe not as pretty as some, but it made this the focus, emphasising other values, such as reliability. 

3. It builds trust

Declaring your weak points builds trust as, once people see what you're prepared to be honest about, then the rest seems more believable. 

For example, this ad for a 'not very nice' London flat undercut the standard estate agent spiel and cut to the chase  

4. It alienates less likely buyers

By not trying to be all things to all people, insanely honest marketers can concentrate their efforts. 

See the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam. It's rough. It crams people in. It's basically a place to crash. Its ads play this up. 

5. It attracts ideal prospects

Insane honesty acts like a filter and deters people who just wouldn't be interested anyway. 

The Ugli Campus in Wood Lane sn't the most attractive buildng, and the ads play up to this, emphasising the contrast between the outside and inside. 

6. It focuses you on the battles you can win

Removing less likely prospects allows marketers to focus efforts on the business they can win. 

As Doug advises, actively seek out your weaknesses and share them openly. 

Graham Charlton

Published 13 November, 2014 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (5)



An instructive post. People to really know who they want to reach and why or else, they'll have no way to know what they're trying to achieve. People need to hear this and have it drilled in their brains..
Thanks for sharing this great article.

almost 4 years ago



Brilliant post. I love the Avis advert, it is copywriting at its best.
We all marketers have a lot to learn from the gold old days.

almost 4 years ago

Andrew Nicholson

Andrew Nicholson, Founder at The Guku

I was lucky enough to attend this presentation on the day - without doubt the most interesting, usable and fun seminar of the Festival, and that's saying a lot.

almost 4 years ago


Kevin Carney

Excellent points! In addition to what's mentioned, sometimes things go wrong, and your blog is the best place to fess up, explain what happened, and state how you're going to make things right.

People respond positively to honesty, partly because it's so unexpected in marketing and advertising.

almost 4 years ago


Robert Broley

Superb points, I think you should be genuine about content, be honest and up front and try and be as helpful as possible.

almost 4 years ago

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