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Don’t Say That!!! How to Improve Your Image by Keeping Your Mouth Closed!

One thing I realized during my 9-5 career is that the things you don’t say can oftentimes be way more powerful than the things you do say. I remember telling my boss, the VP of Sales, a story about a how another VP of Sales in a past job took a huge account that I had landed away from me and transferred it to a senior rep because he felt I couldn’t handle it. I told this story as a weffective marketing communications small businessay to prove that I was capable of bringing in big accounts.  But as I told it, I realized that what I was really doing by telling the story was instilling doubt in his mind of my abilities to effectively manage a large account. If another person in his position had made that call, then maybe there was some validity to it.  

I vividly remember sitting there after having spilled the beans, immediately regretting it;   realizing that although I was trying to make myself look capable it really did quite the opposite…  It was a valuable lesson and I learned to be a lot more mindful about what I say – and don’t say!  And that is a skill that is definitely useful in developing marketing communications….

Now cut to yesterday…. I stole a couple of lazy hours on a Saturday afternoon to watch some mindless TV. And on comes a Nutella commercial. I rarely watch commercials these days, but as a marketer when I do, I pay attention. In this particular Nutella commercialI noticed how they positioned the product as a fun, easy, and healthy choice.  I didn’t quite buy the “healthy” claim so I went to my laptop to look up their ingredients. Guess what???  No so healthy…! But it got me thinking again about Marketing and Advertising and clever big corporations are with their messaging – like politicians, they are great at focussing on the good and ignoring the “bad”. So I thought I’d point out what Nutella did in their commercials to help small business owners know what to say – and NOT say!

Here are some lines from their commercial that I thought were interesting uses of marketing messaging. I also included lessons that all small businesses can learn from them.

“Serve it on whole wheat toast or even whole wheat waffles.”  – I love this line.   Without saying the product is healthy, it leads you to believe it’s healthy simply by associating it with something that is healthy!  Using this strategy, you can slap 20 tablespoons of sugar on whole wheat bread and voila! It’s healthy!  Lesson:  In your business, what can you associate your product or service with to make it more appealing to consumers?

“My kismall business advertisingds love it and I feel good about serving it.”  – Translation: I don’t have to force my kids to eat healthy stuff they hate- yet, it’s healthy enough that I don’t have to feel guilty about feeding them junk.  Lesson: What emotional affect  does your product or service have on consumers and how can you make them feel good about using it?

“Nutella is made with Simple, Quality ingredients; like hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa” –How can you go wrong with nuts and skim milk and just a ‘hint’ of cocoa??? Sounds so nutritious and wholesome and good, doesn’t it? What they don’t say is that the first ingredient is sugar and the second is palm oil (which is proven to increase bad cholesterol).  Lesson: How are you showcasing your best qualities (and down-playing your not-so-great qualities)?

“No artificial colors or preservatives” – What they don’t tell you is there are artificial flavors, but because they say “no artificial colors or preservatives” you forget to ask about artificial “anything” and assume it’s “artificial”/junk free!  Lesson: As small business owners we sometimes feel the need to apologize for the little things we don’t do-  or the services we don’t provide… but instead of apologizing for what you don’t offer, focus on what you DO – and more often than not, people won’t even notice what you don’t do!

I’m not writing this to pick on Nutella or to tell you shouldn’t smother it all over your whole wheat toast for breakfast.  I wrote it to use a real world example of how an effective marketing strategy and careful marketing messaging can transform your product or service. Happy Marketing !

(And one more thing, can you really call it a Hazelnut spread if hazelnuts are only the THIRD ingredient? Wouldn’t it be a sugar spread?” – I guess it’s all about packaging!)

 What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!! Leave your comments here.


By the way, if you liked this post, I’d really appreciate your Retweet!!! Thank you. 🙂


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8 Responses

    1. Carolyn

      Hi Jim,

      Thank you very much for visiting my site, for taking the time to post your comment – and for your funny and creative Tweet. I’m glad you enjoyed reading the article – it was fun to write!! Best, Carolyn

  1. Robin

    Can a company tell a whole story in 60 seconds or less? One would think not. But, I am amazed at how many disclaimers these pharmaceutical companies can communicate in a 60 second advertisement.

    Yes, I agree that we need to take responsibility to fact check and spend time doing our due diligence obtaining accurate information. Ultimately, as consumers we searching for the information we need to make an informed buying decision. It is frustrating at times getting the information we need directly from advertising or a pushy sales person. It is the process of being “sold” a set of facts that may prove in the end to be inaccurate that is so frustrating. That is why people don’t like being “sold”.

    So, as we are performing our due diligence and we happen upon information that is contrary to what a sales person or an ad claimed, what impression does that leave of the company in question? As opposed to researching the company and finding that everything they claimed was confirmed by others and you found no contrary information. What impression would that kind of confirmation leave with you? Which company would you prefer to buy from?

    I think the paradigm is changing. Business is about building ongoing relationships. And, even business relationships are very dependent on trust. Trust can be damaged or destroyed by deception and being less than truthful. If a company promotes its business as trustworthy, and wants to maintain those ongoing business relationships that it worked so hard to obtain, then the company needs to walk the talk.

    1. Carolyn

      Hi Robin,

      Unfortunately, I think we’ve all become used to advertising not telling us the whole truth and I don’t think we think less of a company for leaving some facts out – especially when it comes to big corporations. We may expect more from small businesses. The fact is that building relationships based on trust is key. And i think it’s up to each individual business and their customers to decide what’s acceptable and what’s not in the marketplace. A company that’s viewed as dishonest most likely won’t last long. Thanks again for your comments. – Carolyn

  2. Robin

    I agree that you have pulled out some important messaging lessons from the Nutella commercial. But, let me ask this: After doing your research and finding out how unhealthy this product is, how do you feel about the level of honesty versus deception in their messaging? I believe that people resent being deceived. Even if it is a “white lie”. In other words a message that is a lie by omission. I wouldn’t want the image of my company to based on deceptive advertising. If I’m giving the impression that the product is “healthy”, then I should deliver a healthy product. Deception may get someone to buy a product once, but they once they find out the truth, they won’t buy again. Frankly, I had never heard of Nutella. May be their messaging is the reason it has caught on big in this country!

    1. Carolyn


      I had the exact same thoughts as I wrote this blog. Is omission lying? By not telling the “whole truth” are we deceiving our potential customers? And I think this question is along the lines of solving worldly moral dilemmas that are way too big for my little blog.

      There is certainly the question of social responsibility. Especially when it comes to certain industries; by omitting certain facts are they negatively impacting individuals and society? And if so, are they obligated to fully disclose every single fact about their product or service?

      There is also the question of personal responsibility. Everyone has the right to act as I did after seeing the Nutella commercial. They can choose to believe everything businesses tell them in a commercial – or they can take action, get off their butts and do a little more research to find the truth. Access to info and facts has never been easier and there is no reason we should be “victims” to the selective information of big biz.

      So, I think by writing this response I’ve found my answer: Commercials are commercials and advertising is advertising – they are not Public Service Announcements. Their sole purpose is to sell products and services. So is omission lying? I don’t’ think so. As a small business owner I believe deep in my sole that most business owners in my target market need what I offer. I also know that some don’t realize they need me, aren’t ready to buy, or for some reason or other just can’t pull the trigger. My job is to find a way to promote and present my company in such a way will break down their doubts, fears, and preconceived ideas in order to bring the most value to them. And the way I can do that is by promoting and hiighting the positive benefits of doing business with me.

      There are going to be positives and negatives to everything – we don’t live in a utopia. I think that we, as responsible adults and consumers need to be aware, ask questions, learn, and then weigh the good and the bad and decide for ourselves what we can live with and what we can’t. It’s all about choices. In Nutella’s case – the choice is do we disregard the sugar, palm oil and artificial flavor because our kids love it and it does have some good qualities – or do we choose something else?

      Thank you for reading my blog and for taking the time to write such a thought-provoking comment. I’d love to continue the conversation. Feel free to comment back with your thoughts!

  3. It is amazing when you really pay attention to commercials how much is really there. I love your breakdown of Nutella, it’s funny, that commercial has caught my attention also, and I did question the healthy aspect of this product, apparently they are doing a good job with their marketing. Thanks Carolyn I enjoy your marketing expertise!

    1. Carolyn

      Hi Susan,

      It is fun to be more aware of what we watch and what is really being told to us, isn’t it? I especially enjoy it when watching politicians answer questions… they are experts at “omission”. Thanks very much for taking the time to read my blog and for your comment!
      -Carolyn Higgins

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