The Naked Truth About Advertising, Underwear and Valentines Day

This time of year our shop Your Life Your Style is full of hearts. Glass coasters with hearts fused into them, heart shaped cushions, handmade cards with stuck on hearts… other shops have enough flowers, chocolates and romantic CDs to fill Westminster Abbey. All intended to show we love someone this coming Monday.

Underwear seems a popular choice as a Valentines Day gift but I’m not certain it’s a good idea. I’ve been wondering how men who receive Marks & Spencer’s new BodyMax underwear will feel. To remind you, this is a new range intended to make a man’s abs more flat, his bum more firm, and his maleness… just plain more. All those years your wife or girlfriend has been saying size doesn’t matter and suddenly she buys you ‘frontal enhancement’ underpants.

It’s worse still if you buy them for yourself. The trouble with all these body changing clothes, for men or women, is that, once you’ve attracted your potential mate with a bulging crotch or uplifted padded boobs, there comes an inevitable moment of truth. Your pants go down and the mountain brings forth a mouse. The bra comes off and your man’s face drops along with a couple of other things. I suppose we hope that by then our partner will be so overcome by passion, they’ll forgive the deception. Or maybe we just make rely on everything looking better by candlelight.

In business we have no such luxury. The law doesn’t allow us to pretend our product or service is one thing and then hope once the customer has bought it, they’ll just accept the disappointing reality. Nor would it be good business sense. Contrary to a widespread public perception, advertising is not about lying. The industry regulator the Advertising Standards Authority even says in its core statement that advertisements in print, TV and radio must be ‘honest, decent and legal’. It’s about to get tougher for businesses because from 1st March the ASA is taking on complaints about websites.

Shops shouldn’t need legislation to make us honest because truth is our biggest marketing tool. I’ve always found that if you are honest about your products, describing them accurately, admitting their limitations, even sending customers elsewhere if that is their best bet, and apologising when you get something wrong, your customers will trust you and come back to you again and again.

These days, all good websites allow customers to comment on products and service from the mighty Amazon to our own little (and only slightly enhanced) Your Life Your Style. We don’t always like what is said but it shows customers we have nothing to hide and it is an additional spur to be clear and accurate about what we promise.

Of course you can’t satisfy everybody and we’re all entitled to an opinion. One customer gave a poor review to our ‘rabbit’ draught excluder. There was nothing wrong with its quality but she didn’t like his slightly mad expression! Still, at least we didn’t pretend it was a bigger size.

This article also appeared on the Daily Echo website

By Paul Lewis

After a short stint as a journalist, I have spent most of my working life in marketing and retailing. I love theatre and have been lucky enough to work in theatre marketing for many years. I provide small businesses and arts organisations with holistic marketing at an economic price through my company Seven Experience Ltd

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