If companies were to be totally honest, how would they advertise their products?
In the capitalist world that we live in, companies are constantly trying to create new needs and sell their products according to the needs they created. In order for this to happen in such a competitive environment, they need to display the most appealing parts or properties of their products while sometimes hiding the ugly truth about them. However, if the companies were to be brutally honest about their products, they would probably have to change their products or create a demand before advertising the product.
If companies were advertising honestly, one option would be to create a new demand for the product, even if it is known to be unhealthy or unfavorable as common sense. Kolter and Armstrong (2013) gave an example to this situation through a fast-food chain with high sales figures, Hardee’s: “At a time when other fast-food chains […] have been pushing healthier meals, Hardee’s has launched one artery-clogging burger after another – gifts to consumers fed up with ‘healthy’, low-fat menu items” (p. 611). In this case, the company is not hiding the nutritional facts about their food and advertise against being low-fat and healthy, with total honesty, by using the soft spot of a target market, who probably have a hard time finding diet food tasty.
Another option would be to modify the product until it becomes favorable again, in the case the product becomes completely unfavorable through honest advertising and the customers feel deceived if no changes made. Carson et al. (1985) claimed that a company which needs to sell its products through deception, that company “is of dubious value to society – the resources that it utilizes could be put to better use in some other way (p. 100). For example, if a car company is advertising for the luxurious look and comfort of a car, masking the higher security risks than its other brands, a better approach to being totally honest while advertising would be to modify the car to be safer.
In conclusion, the whole point of still being able to sell the products even after honest advertising would be either through creating a new demand even when the product is unfavorable, or through changing the product so that deception would be unnecessary in the first place.
Carson, T. L., Wokutch, R. E., & Cox Jr, J. E. (1985). An ethical analysis of deception in advertising. Journal of Business Ethics, 4(2), 93-104.
Kotler, P., & Armstrong, G. (2013). Principles of Marketing 15th Global Edition. Pearson.
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