Want to keep the customers you’ve got? Make sure you don’t send them away (or even the prospective clients) with the wrong message.

Since the week that began with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I thought of all those ads that spend too much time focusing on what the customer does wrong. Rev. King was quite a successful man because he didn’t focus on what you were doing wrong; he merely tried to turn our attention to what to do right.

I don’t like being told I’m an idiot because I picked up a bag of trash and let the contents break through the bottom of the bag. I don’t like being reminded that I spent too much on insurance with the other guy. And I really don’t like to be alienated because some airline pilots leave their passengers (could be me!) on the tarmac while they run off for a great eyeglasses sale. All these commercials do is make me want to avoid these brands – not patronize them.

Make sure your marketing message isn’t built on the backs of your customers’ honest mistakes or your competition’s shortcomings. We humans are smart. We can figure it out if your stuff is better than the other guy’s stuff without you directly dissing him.

“You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”

David Ogilvy, Ogilvy & Mather – the Godfather of Modern Advertising