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The Dot of Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is something you can't escape when you sell a product or service. You're telling other people to focus their attention on a single element of a complicated product or service, all the while attempting to differentiate your client from their peers. When you look at your marketing message in this way, I think it becomes evident why it's so hard for companies to market charitable initiatives, present themselves as socially responsible, or demonstrate true concern about environmental change. You're asking people to look you in the eye and perhaps smile while you're talking, but they can't help but focus on the spot of blood on your cheek.

The challenge of marketing any product or service that includes a social responsibility message requires you to confront what I like to call "the dot of hypocrisy." Your message won't be effective unless you focus on one idea in each communication. If that one idea is a naked social responsibility message, however, you're in big trouble.


If you lead with a marketing claim that is solely based in a social responsibility message, your audience will pick it apart. This is something that I'll be exploring more in-depth in some other posts, but the short argument is this:

Product claims may seem logical to marketers, but they are emotional in nature to an audience and tied up in a mess of factors that include your brand perception and your product position, value, and quality. You can try to control your brand and your product, but you can't control how people perceive the value of your charitable giving or social responsibility. People nowadays say that they think it's critical for companies to be good global citizens, but that single claim isn't enough to get them to act. Social responsibility has to align with people's purchasing factors to make a dent in the dot of hypocrisy.

Sometimes minimizing the dot of hypocrisy is this simple:


Can you think of any examples of companies that have diminished the dot of hypocrisy in an elegant way?


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