Your parents were right; you should always tell the truth.

Kate Ware, BuzzPop Social

2 March 2017

I went to a conference today. It was a pretty big event; a very well staged event with excellent pre-event communication and organisation. Heck, they’d even managed to pull some of the biggest names in marketing and entrepreneurship in the world, which was why I was so pumped to attend.

I set on my merry way this morning with a spring in my step knowing that in a few short hours I would be seeing some of my business heroes in the flesh!

But a few things made me feel uneasy when I arrived and registered. Firstly, there was no event schedule; for an event which ran from 8:30am-6pm this seemed a little strange. Then there was a lot of ‘wahoo’ and ‘can I hear a YES!’ from the crowd when the MC arrived on the stage. He also made us stand up for an awfully long period of time (apparently getting us comfortable with being uncomfortable) while he spoke. However, I figured that the saccharine-sweet motivational wind-up was just not my cup of tea. In hindsight, it was a clear indication of the type of event I was attending and I should’ve trusted my gut.

The first keynote began, as a ‘live’ hologram. Having not experienced this technology IRL (in real life) before, my mind was blown. It was a seriously cool experience with an uncannily lifelike resemblance to the speaker. However, it was the colloquial references to America that made my alarm bells ring. Ummm, dude? We’re in Australia now. There was nothing ‘live’ about this prerecorded hologram, except for the fact that the play button was being pressed by the sound tech guy at the back of the room.

It was the calibre of ‘speakers’ that followed which really irked me. Don’t get me wrong, they were good. It was just that these speakers had clearly paid to be at this event (not the other way around, as with the keynotes) and so their agendas were high. They were there to sell, and sell hard.

Each and every action you take in business should be done with your values front and centre.


As the topics, and the approach of these speakers, were not resonating with me, I asked one of the organisers for the time that the remaining keynotes would be speaking. But they refused to tell me. Flat out refused. They were clearly trying to keep people at the event so the sponsors received maximum eyes and ears (understandable), except they were doing it in a way that was sneaky and misleading.

So I left! As a consumer, I walked away because I felt misled and ripped off (as another attendee suggested, she felt dirty!). But as a brand strategist, unethical marketing practices simply do not sit well with me and I couldn’t sit there any longer and support this event – no matter how much I wanted to see the other keynotes! Contrasted against our world of social media and the movement towards more transparency in business, today’s approach made me feel like I was stepping back in time. Hello, 1995!

As a brand, it is absolutely critical to set your intentions to your audience and give realistic expectations of their experience, whatever that may be. Most people in attendance today were astute business people; they understand the need for sponsors to have an opportunity to sell. So why not be upfront about it? You respect us and we’ll respect you.

When building a brand, treat your target audience, your clients and customers, with the kind of respect that you expect yourself. And be honest. Have integrity. People respect that whether it’s coming from a brand or an individual. And as more people respect your brand, more success will come your way.

Do you know what the best part of that is? You can do it all with your head held high.

“When building a brand, treat your target audience, your clients and customers, with the kind of respect you expect yourself.”

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