May 30, 2013

“Free” and “new” have been the most powerful words in marketing for sixty years. Now they may have been replaced by “I’m sorry.” The public apology is growing as a key marketing strategy.

You certainly see it in politics. Just take a look at New York City’s mayoral primary elections where former Congressmen Anthony Weiner is on an apology tour for sexting with young women. And Mark Sanford, whose affair with an Argentine woman forced him out of office earlier, apologized, and voters sent him to Congress.

Since the public seems willing to support almost anyone after a public mea culpa, it is no wonder that businesses think this is also a great marketing strategy. Netflix, J.C. Penney, every day another company joins the “I’m sorry” marketing team. Fact is a well-timed apology can generate free media attention and make a company appear more human and accessible.

It is sad that many businesses have given up trying to do the right thing and are comfortable asking their customers to just accept their failures and move on. Well, this is better than the IRS who simply won’t answer any questions from their customers.

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