Truthiness

A big media story this week has been the naming of Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman. As I was reading about Colbert’s successful run at Comedy Central, I recalled his use of the word truthiness.

Whether Stephen Colbert invented the word truthiness is debatable. But it’s a good word. It describes a feeling that something you believe to be true is true, whether or not there is evidence to support your belief. Even when there is hard evidence that your belief is wrong, you stand by the truthiness of your belief.

We see this in political, religious and scientific arguments all the time. Logic and accepted facts may say one thing, but you (or I) believe something else. Because… well, just because.

In advertising, if the message is repeated often enough, we may buy into certain examples of truthiness. Even though your experience (or your dad) has taught you that brand A cars are better than brand B, an ad campaign can cause you to call your previously held belief into question.

In our modern world of shared “wisdom” via the web, we commonly see assertions of “true” facts that we know to be wrong. Those “Twelve Things You Should Never Say In A Blog Post” may include a couple that worked just fine for you or a client.

An example of marketing truthiness here in St. Louis arrived in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago. It was an impressive direct mail piece for a local hospital group’s “Convenient Care” clinic. It even included a map that marked the route from my very own house to their facility!

After closer inspection, though, I noticed that the mapped route was not the most direct route from my house to the clinic. Also, their route took me onto one of the busiest thoroughfares in the county. I double-checked with Google and Bing and their maps agreed with me about the most direct route.

Why would this hospital group assert their own truthiness in guiding me to their place? Because the direct route would take me right by a competing hospital!

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