Truth: The New Rules for Marketing in a Sceptical World

Strategic Direction

ISSN: 0258-0543

Publication date: 20 March 2009


Upshaw, L. (2009), "Truth: The New Rules for Marketing in a Sceptical World", Strategic Direction, Vol. 25 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Truth: The New Rules for Marketing in a Sceptical World

Article Type: Suggested reading From: Strategic Direction, Volume 25, Issue 4

Lynn UpshawAmerican Management Association, 2007

Since mankind came to the twenty-first century, marketing professionals have experienced one of the most exciting periods, forcing them to confront a befuddling paradox due to the explosion of online promotions, buzz marketing, and advertising everywhere people need to go. On the one hand, consumers have become more skeptical and are much better equipped with knowledge and information for shopping. They definitely want brands that they can believe in from companies that are trustworthy. On the other hand, business firms have become more sensitive to and care more than ever before about their consumers in terms of providing solid, reliable, trustworthy, valuable products and services. As a result, firms that fail to deliver their products and services with trust risk destroying their potential consumer goodwill and, ultimately, their business.

Building reliable trust among consumers is crucial for business to be successful in today’s highly competitive market environment, but how can firms build such trust? The book under review provides us a very good solution. Lynn Upshaw, by presenting and analyzing real-world examples and engaging stories, offers readers some effective ways to fulfill the task, such as: to promote honestly not just legally, to avoid credibility killers that repel customers, to replace the existing pricing strategy with a more convincing value promise, to stay on the customers’ minds by getting out of their faces, and to build stronger customer partnerships along with stronger teams.

The principal books objective is to enlighten and excite readers about the truth that a company’s success depends on its ability to convey its integrity. It demonstrates how to build a more motivated workforce, increase customer loyalty, and bolster credibility among stakeholders by convincing customers but not simply selling products and services to them. The author takes a practical business-building approach to marketing with integrity, which, in this reviewer’s opinion, is unique in the field of marketing and as such is very valuable for the marketing professionals. With the help of “What if?” scenarios and fictional dialogues inspired by real experiences, the author offers critical lessons learned from companies whose integrity drives their marketing approach. It is clear that: “Integrity is no longer just business of prosecutors, preachers, and congressional committees. It is the business in which all marketers must now to be engaged” (p. 5).

Lynn Upshaw, also the author and co-author of two highly regarded books, is an internationally known brand and marketing consultant and currently serves as a member of the MBA faculty of the Hass School of Business, University of California at Berkeley. She has spent three decades showing businesses of various sizes, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, that integrity is an absolute necessity for achieving marketing goals. In the book, Upshaw details some of the challenges and strategic solutions for business in general and marketing in particular during this age of skepticism and doubt. She suggests internal planning and training strategies for putting theory into practice and provides a new benchmark against which to measure return on marketing integrity. She indicates that “integrity marketing planning and training are the discipline that will sustain and build upon the company’s ability to drive practical integrity throughout the organization” (p. 238).

The book contains three parts. Part one begins with a discussion on practical integrity and details some of the challenges and strategic solutions for business in general and for marketing in particular to be successful in today’s social environment that is full of skepticism and doubt in addition to competition. “Practical integrity is a systematized process of marketing planning and execution that drives multiple forms of integrity throughout the entire marketing mix, enabling customers and marketers to thrive in a high-integrity environment” (p. 20). It is in this section that the author examines the critical lessons learned from five companies that are driven by company-wide integrity that dictates their approach to marketing. In the first chapter in this part, the author explores what practical integrity is and a better way to market by convincing the unconvinced. The author sharply states that “what people expected today is just a fair chance to find the truth and buy it” (p. 9). “Not just integrity with honest, but a broad-based integrity that derives all of the marketing programs” (p. 16). In the following chapter, the author demonstrates how practical integrity works by profiling five companies: Herman Miller, Infosys, Trader Joe’s, Patagonia, and Kiehl’s. “Each of these companies has created a brand that is unique in the extreme. Differentiation is not a marketing problem for any of them” (p. 26). All of these companies market with practical integrity because integrity is party of who they are.

In part two, Upshaw provides a detailed description of powerful marketing strategies derived from broad-based integrity. This part consists of six chapters with brief sections called “A Conversation,” which are fictional dialogues inspirited by real experiences. Chapter three is about customer strategy, demonstrating how to build an equitable partnership fused with integrity. Marketers and their buyers will be “far more likely to achieve their mutual goals if they form a working partnership” (p. 53). Chapter four focuses on product strategy, stressing that “integrity can be the most important ingredient in any product, especially when it has been demonstrated over long periods of time” (p. 95). Chapter five deals with competitive strategy, emphasizing the significance of creditability building in business world. “Marketing credibility is a gatekeeper to the customer’s trust. Every marketer should be trying to achieve a leadership position in the race for marketing credibility” (p. 118).

In chapter six the author discusses communication strategies, suggesting all marketers should follow this rule: Promote honestly, not just legally. Chapter seven is closely related to chapter six, portraying the communication channels strategy. The author points out that “it is increasingly urgent for marketers to understand exactly how much their brands and their methods are actually liked by their audiences” (p. 158). Chapter eight presents the detailed discussion on value strategy, with Upshaw stressing that it is the trust that drives value. “By creating and supporting the right value proposition, the brand deemphasizes pricing issues and focuses on the value-added benefits that are enhanced by a strong integrity of value.” (p. 178)

Part three continues with additional integrity strategies. Here, the author suggests some internal marketing, benchmarking, marketing plan, and training that will help put practical integrity strategies into practice. Chapter nine is about the people strategy, exploring how to build a high-integrity team. The author indicates “a motivated staff can be the marketer’s best friends because they will daily demonstrated the value of the company that is also represented by the marketing program” (p. 201). Chapter ten deals with the metrics strategy, providing a benchmark against a new return on market integrity formula, which differs from the traditional return on market investment approach. In chapter eleven, Upshaw details how to make the integrity-based marketing plan and emphasizes how to prepare a better way to market. Also in this chapter, the author suggests an approach for training a marketing staff in the application of practical integrity to their individual roles on the team. Upshaw writes: “Integrity marketing plan and training are the disciplines that will sustain and build upon the company’s ability to drive practical integrity throughout the organization” (p. 238). A very short chapter twelve stresses the importance of honesty again and finalizes with the statement: “As you struggle to market successfully in this skeptical world, it may be helpful to remember that there is nothing more practical than marketing with integrity.” (p. 240).

In today’s business world, the truth is that a company’s success depends on its ability to convey its integrity. The subject of integrity in marketing is one that has been receiving considerable attention in both academic and practical domains. Truth: The New Rules for Marketing in a Skeptical World exposes the readers to this comprehensive and strategically relevant topic, which is fast emerging as a subject of considerable scholarly discourse. The internationally known marketing scholar Dr Philip Kotler, currently S.C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, highly praises the book and says: “In all my writings about marketing, there has been one theme: ‘Honest Companies Win.’ Lynn Upshaw provides the blueprint for wining marketing performance in an age of transparency.”

This book succeeds in expanding our understanding of how the approach of integrity provides key insights into marketing science, and it once more demonstrates the truth that honesty is the lifeline for all businesses. As such, the current reviewer thinks that this book has definite appeal to students and professors in marketing, as it aids understanding of the contextual underpinnings of marketing principles and strategies. Moreover, this book represents a useful “how to” guide for both marketing practitioners and educational professionals on how to put into practice an integrity marketing approach. Clearly it represents a useful resource for anyone who looks to understand the significance of the integrity in marketing as well as for those who search for the practical values of integrity marketing. As Mr Thomas Miller, the Executive Vice President for Marketing, City National Bank, comments: “This is a great read and a compelling argument for putting integrity first in today’s multi-tasking, attention-deficient world. No matter what, people will always appreciate truth.”

Reviewed by Robert Guang Tian, Medaille College, Buffalo, New York, USA.

This review was originally published in Journal of Consumer Marketing, Volume 25 Number 6 2008.