There’s a scene in the movie “Elf” that I think sums up most modern marketing pretty accurately. Will Farrell walks by a coffee shop with a sign on the window that says something along the lines of “World’s Best Coffee.” Throwing open the door, he runs in and shouts “Congratulations! You did it!” The rest of the patrons sit there, staring at him. (Watch the scene here.)
Of course the coffee shop doesn’t have the best coffee in the world. Maybe in the owner’s opinion it does, but really it’s just a marketing gimmick that the world allows, but does not accept at face value. It’s a disingenuous truth. To the owner, it may be true. But the rest of the world? We know it’s a subjective matter of opinion.
I see examples of this throughout equine marketing. Have you ever read your fly spray bottle? Supposedly the stuff lasts up to 14 days. Fake news, anyone? I don’t know about you, but flies are always back on my horse within a day of application. You may still be able to find chemical traces of the repellent on your horse 14 days later. But is it still repelling flies for two weeks? Not in my experience. If you know of a fly spray that does— drop a line in the comments. I will personally buy stock in that.
Situations like these are why most consumers are so skeptical. Marketing is just no longer authentic. Testimonials and reviews are often faked. Companies make wild claims that are only occasionally backed up by evidence, but if you read the fine print, you’ll find several “Catch-22s.”
Too often equine marketers are just comfortable stretching the truth. Your marketing slogan may sound good, but if it’s not accurate, what’s the point? Or there’s the slogan that literally any company in any industry could say. “Quality products. Affordable prices.” Sure, I guess that’s true. Depending on what other prices and products you’re comparing to. All you’re achieving with disingenuous truths like these is destroying any relationship you had with the client.
Equestrians are looking for authenticity. If you say your product does something, it better do it and do it well. Disingenuous marketing can make you stand out in the short term, but you’ll find your business failing in the long run. Once the truth gets out, you’ll be hard-pressed to find customers.
Equestrians are not fools. Throwing a horn and some glitter on a white horse does not a unicorn make.
Sometimes trainers and equine business owners are blind to their own disingenuous truths. The owner of a small family run tack shop may post glamorous stock photos of shiny bits and beautiful tack rooms. When, in reality, they aren’t being authentic. Instead of pretending to be something they’re not, they should be playing to the family-oriented aspect of their business. Post photos of Cousin Jerry organizing the bridles and of your niece’s new pony. Representing the family-aspect of your business online is more authentic and your customers will love you for it.
People typically have some level of fear related to authenticity. Would anyone really want to go to a tack store that isn’t selling high-end saddles like CWD or Circle Y? The answer to that is a resounding yes. The equine world is full of unique and interesting people. I firmly believe that if you’re authentic to your own brand, your people will come to you. Stretching the truth won’t get you far. But being honest to yourself and your clients will.
Here’s another trend that I take issue with for blatantly untruthful marketing. What is with the #FarmGirl influencers on Facebook and Instagram? I see these women with beautifully done makeup, clean jeans, stylish boots, and hay-free hair standing in a field of cattle. There’s something wrong with this picture.
I only have two horses and two dogs, not 50 head of cattle. Yet, I still wind up covered in hay, dirt and dust the majority of the time. Let me tell you– when I’m getting up early to take care of my mini-farm before work, I’m not going to spend an hour on my eyeliner. Who believes these women are actually doing the farm work?
What happens when a little girl sees these beautiful women and decides she wants to run a farm one day? I applaud her, but she’s going to find a pretty rude awakening.
I’ll be honest with you- I personally struggle with authenticity. When I first designed my website I was tempted to use stock photos. My personal horses I bought for a combined total of $501. I love them, I think they’re beautiful. But they’re not long-maned friesians galloping through fields of daisies. Most days I’m thrilled with LB if she can remember how to pick up a right lead canter on the lunge (#OTTBProblems). However, I had to have a discussion with myself about what I wanted to represent online.
I could design a website that was worthy of a business with multiple employees. I could refer to myself as “we” and stretch a few truths. But that would commit a cardinal sin against authenticity. I’m a one-person small business established in 2019. I’m able to create high-quality results, but Golden Fleece Farm is not a corporate establishment. When you work with me, you get what you see. Because that’s all it is– just me.