Ditch the flowery language: Straightforward marketing is more trustworthy, research says

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Being honest about health risks or imperfections in a marketing campaign could help hospitals build trust with patients, Harvard Business Review reported.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia studied the effect on sales by labeling an atypical product as "ugly." Researchers found that saying "ugly" instead of other euphemisms, such as "imperfect," generated more sales.

When marketing fruits with appearances that differed from the norm, researchers found that calling the fruit ugly corrected consumers' bias that there was anything else wrong with the product. Siddhanth Mookerjee, a researcher on the study, found that calling an item ugly made the company seem more trustworthy. The researchers also found that consumers, on some levels, might feel bad for a product labeled as ugly or cause them to reflect on their own self-worth. 

The study's insights could be applied to hospitals when marketing services or conducting community outreach that might be tied to something negative, such as health risks or even death. Marketers might  feel inclined to put a positive spin on the topic, but being forward about negative aspects could enhance how trustworthy the hospital seems to a patient.

Marketers might be hesitant to mention  side effects or potential risks when marketing vaccines to children ages 5-11. However, emphasizing concerns may help validate the feelings of patients and parents or communicate the hospital is being transparent.


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