Showing your flaws could boost business

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‘Flawsome’, a portmanteau of flawed and awesome, has become the new marketing buzzword. Trendwatching.com gives this definition of the concept:

 “Consumers don't expect brands to be flawless. In fact, consumers will embrace brands that are FLAWSOME*: brands that are still brilliant despite having flaws; even being flawed (and being open about it) can be awesome. Brands that show some empathy, generosity, humility, flexibility, maturity, humour, and (dare we say it) some character and humanity.”

And the stats are there to back it up, according to a study by social commerce company Revoo, a third of consumers suspect a review is fake if no negative points are raised. Added to this, those who go out of their way to read bad reviews are 67% more likely to buy a product or service than those who don’t.

Jim Antonopoulos, executive creative director of Tank Branding, says the last decade has seen a gradual shift in the consumer consciousness.

“The advent of the internet has really pushed organisations to be more transparent and more honest. Consumers are more sceptical, especially since the GFC… A lot of things have come together and become catalysts for this movement to display transparency and humanity. Consumers expect that now from organisations large and small.”

Advisers need to be more cautious than some other business because of the sensitive issues they deal with, but Antonoupolos insists there is still a place for the flawsome idea to be integrated into financial services businesses.

“It’s pretty precarious territory to tread when you’re dealing with people's wealth… but I think that if we’re thinking of relationships between human beings, if you admit your failures, trust comes out of that and when you rectify those failures in a positive and transparent way, not an underhanded way, the other party begins to trust you.”

Consumers are aware that you have failings, says Antonopoulos, and will question any marketing campaign that appears too flawless.

“Marketing is not just a veneer or a coat of paint that you put over everything. It’s not creating messages out of thin air and putting them out into the market and hoping the market buys into it… If we can’t see the proof points in a message then we pull our clients up on it, because the consumers definitely will.”

Part of a flawsome approach to branding is changing the idea of marketing from one-way to two-way communication, understanding what consumers dislike about your business or your industry and working on those flaws, says Antonopoulos.

This is particularly important before undertaking any new marketing strategy or business project, says Antonopoulos.

“Sometimes as a business we forget that we have ears, that we’re able to converse and to listen…I’d be calling a handful of clients and saying ‘Hey, we’re considering doing XYZ. What do you reckon?’ And get them to give us some honest feedback before anything is done beyond pen and paper.”

Large businesses frequently use costly market research and data mining for this purpose, he says, but the technique can equally be utilised by smaller businesses such as practices with smaller marketing budgets and teams.

Following Google trends, and using websites such as Whirlpool and Twitter are an easy and cost-effective way for advisers to gauge market sentiment and receive feedback, he says.

advisers that don’t embrace both positive and negative opinions and try to cover up their flaws, risk being judged harshly by the average consumer, says Antonopoulos.

“Consumers are pretty savvy… if you handle things badly they’re going to walk away, because they can Google their options within a few minutes. You have to remember you are always just one of many, many, many options.”

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