"Isn't that what marketing is - just one big lie?"

For the past few weeks, I've been thinking about this statement made by a friend (whose name I won't reveal here, as it's not important) in "half-jest." Of course, "half-jest" just means that the truth slipped out and, when met with shocked and defensive responses, he felt bad for saying it.

After talking so much about authenticity in marketing, and the importance of increased transparency as companies strive to open up, listen, and really communicate with their customers, it was like being jolted back to reality to hear that sentiment. Regardless of the intent in pronouncing this bold accusation, the fact of the matter is that a lot of people feel this way, perhaps now more than ever. It seems like everyone is preaching about a new era of "hope" and "change," but consumers aren't that easy to persuade - and more than that, they are cynical. They've lost money, their homes, and they've pitted themselves against the big companies as underdog representatives of "Main Street" as opposed to Wall Street. If you're a big company, most consumers aren't sympathizing with you just on principle.

This is exactly why it is increasingly urgent to not only communicate with customers, but to be authentic in our communications - no matter how large or small a company we represent. Don't promise things that are "too good to be true" unless they are really, 100% awesomely true. Level with your customers and fans about the state of your company, even if it means admitting that this isn't your best year. We all know that it's a tough economy to work in, but wouldn't you rather tell your own story directly to your supporters before they hear a bunch of ominous, 30-second sound bytes on the news?