Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year. The dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
In the words of the Washington Post: Truth is dead.
Post-truth isn’t new but its usage spiked during the contentious Brexit vote and the US presidential election as politicians on both sides of the pond used alternate versions of reality and, in some cases, outright lies to appeal to their audience. And, despite rabid yet objective fact checking, the truth did not seem to matter – it merely got in the way.
As a marketer, it’s offensive that our industry is held to a higher standard than the men and women tasked with leading our county. The Federal Trade Commission enforces truth-in-advertising laws giving special focus to advertising claims that can affect consumers’ health, finances, food, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, alcohol, and tobacco.
So before an herbal dietary supplement can be marketed, it must undergo stringent testing and its claims must be substantiated. However, you can feel free to claim that affordable health care for Americans is a socialist plot created by an underground cell of radical Mouseketeers in suburban Milwaukee. No problem.
Imagine if “Post-Truth in Advertising” were allowed to exist. Restaurants could claim that their competitor’s food made people sick. Maybe it’s because their Chilean sea bass is actually Australian platypus…I’m just saying.
Banks could report that the competition was doubling, maybe even tripling, their lending rates. That’s what we hear anyway.
Builders could claim that another builder’s work was shoddy and put residents at risk – forgetting to add accounts of actual incidents but repeating the words horrible, awful, and terrible to make their point.
Mattress distributors might be accused of filling their products with the wool from the endangered Black Welsh Mountain sheep and the crushed dreams of Syrian refugee children. That’s what people tell me and it’s disgusting.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than willing to promote our clients’ products or services based solely on their merit without having to exaggerate their effectiveness or attack their competition. I take pride in being held to a higher standard than the snake oil sellers of days gone by – and by that I mean November 8th.