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The Upside of the Downside

August 23, 2005 by

Authenticity in marketing and communication continues to be tried and tested. Whether it be the “real” women in the Dove campaign, the sincerity of a t-shirt from a church in Canada, or the honesty in a direct mail postcard from a church in Kansas, being authentic is pretty attractive in my opinion.

Earlier this year, in a Monday Morning Memo from the Wizard of Ads, Roy H. Williams had some keen insights on being authentic when it comes to marketing.

“Features and benefits, features and benefits, features and benefits. We’ve polished our pitches to such a degree that we’ve dimmed our abilities to persuade. The customer is only half listening because the inner self is asking, ‘What are they not telling me?’”

To win back the attention of our audience and earn credibility, Williams suggests that marketers learn to name features, benefits, and the downside.

“Trust me, the customer is already trying to figure out the downside. Why not just tell them? It’s the best possible way to insulate yourself from the backlash when they finally figure it out for themselves. …

“This powerful ‘tell the truth’ technique is easily perverted into just another oily sales trick when the downside you name isn’t the real one. As Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld observed 350 years ago, ‘We only confess our little faults to persuade people that we have no big ones.’”

This kind of reminds me of what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 4:14-15 when he admonishes us to speak the truth in love.

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…”

The next time you promote something, will the truth be evident or will it be tucked away waiting to be found? People are not as stupid as we think.

Post By:

Brad Abare


Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it. He and his wife Jamaica live in Los Angeles with their daughter, MirĂ³.
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2 Responses to “The Upside of the Downside”

  • Anthony
    August 23, 2005

    How do you “tell the truth” without sounding stupid? “We have a great toddlers ministry but we don’t empty the diaper pails often enough so the rooms really stink” (lol) I understand that you should never over promise and you should never distort/stretch the truth — but why would we wish to highlight our faults (when it is clear that peoples is peoples and all peoples have some faults of some kind anyway)


  • Brad Abare
    August 23, 2005

    I’m not so much focused on telling the truth for truth’s sake. It is more about when we are communicating and marketing who we are as the church, that we make sure our message is telling the whole story. Take for example the church that advertises “services for the whole family!” If they can’t really live up to that, maybe they could say instead, “services for the whole family, except youth, we lost our last youth leader after a pizza party went south.”
    This is extreme, but understand the point. Making sure the truth comes out in what we are already saying is what I am most interested in.



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