Conceal vs. Reveal

Marketing spends a lot of time concealing things.

Take this box of Whole Wheat Ritz crackers. The #1 ingredient? White flour.

Or consider the fine print read in a hurry at the end of the car ad or the fact that most bottled water comes from the tap… Most contracts are designed to conceal as much as to reveal, which is one reason lawyers get a bad rap.

If you set out to conceal as a marketer (airbrushing a photo, leading with your strengths, staying within the letter if not the spirit of the law) it's easy to invent creative new ways to achieve your goals. It sure feels as though you can stay ahead of the game.

A different technique is starting to gain traction, though. Working to reveal instead of conceal. My fish monger in Grand Central has started placing signs in front of each fish. They describe exactly where the fish came from, whether it's healthy and how endangered it is. You'll never see fine print saying "previously frozen." They don't have any fine print. The first few times you visit the stand, it's actually off putting. It takes the romance and pleasure out of buying the fish, because you realize that there's a cost to it. The meat guy across the way doesn't have pictures of cows being slaughtered, does he?

But after a while, because the information is out there, because smart fish buyers already know some fish is endangered, the signs give you power. They allow you to make smart choices. They send a message to the customer about the honesty and intent of the seller. They build trust.

Once you embrace the idea of revealing as much as you can (consider Amazon's policy of selling the cheaper used copies right next to the new ones, as well as featuring ads from competitors on the same page) it's a lot easier to live and thrive online.

[Jess sends us this post from her blog. Apparently, Monsanto has made it against the law for Pennsylvania dairies to reveal what's in (and not in) the milk they sell. Astonishing.]