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Reality in Advertising: A powerful path to connecting with customers

Truth and fantasy are battling for your customers hearts …

… and it’s a battle that’s happening in advertising and marketing departments everywhere.

L’Oreal was dealt a trouncing last week when Britain’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) banned advertisements featuring heavily airbrushed Julia Roberts, Christy Turlington, and two of the company’s beauty products: Maybelline’s The Eraser anti-aging foundation and Lancome’s Teint Miracle.

The ASA struck them down on the basis that the ads were misleading, saying “On the basis of the evidence we had received we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve, and that the image had not been exaggerated by digital post-production techniques,” the ASA said.

Local leader Jo Swinson added that it was “shocking” that the ASA had been denied copies of the original photographs to review.

Even the Scottish MP weighed in, saying that “Pictures of flawless skin and super-slim bodies are all around, but they don’t reflect reality.”

So what does reflect reality, and is it important for brands to reflect—or at least acknowledge—it?

If there are two paths to connect with and inspire consumers—reality and fantasy—how do we recognize reality?

I can’t help but recall an inspired commercial by Dove from a few years ago, a case study in reality in advertising.

The hugely successful and viral “Real Beauty” campaign demonstrated something that a lot of brands are learning with each passing day—truth is powerful. By acknowledging and reinforcing consumers’ apprehensions, Dove showed that the brand was on their side.

Consumers are savvier than ever before, and in many cases mistrustful of exaggerated claims. Truth, reality, and sincerity can cause consumers to relate in a profound way.

So why should brands strive to attain truth?

Reality is a powerful thing. Brands can harness their customers’ realities to achieve something more impactful than any calculated or aspirational image can create. As a brand, the only way to do this is to really know your customer intimately.

Passions, fears, dreams, insecurities, loves, wants needs are all things that your customers are sharing—in public and in private—and things that your company can learn from.

Wouldn’t you rather solve a real customer pain than to have to convince buyers that they need your project? Get close—and they’ll share those pains—tangible and intangible—with you.

The temptation to fall back on fantasy in marketing can be a strong one. But in so many cases, truth and reality in advertising are infinitely more powerful. And even inspiration, aspiration, and idealism are more effectual when buttressed by the reality your customers are willing to share with you.

Do you know what it means to truly understand and connect with your customers? To receive an exclusive whitepaper bundle that examines customer engagement online, explores how communities can be used to build intimate relationships with consumers, and shows how consumers are changing their spending habits in the today’s world, click here.

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