There’s an expression: “tragedy plus time equals comedy”, and when a guy who portrayed the Marlboro Man in advertising died this year from a smoking-related illness, it was tragic, and also seemed like a punch line to a sad joke.
Eric Lawson had smoked since he was 14, and he smoked most of his life. Even though he had a hard time quitting, he told people to not smoke because he knew it was unhealthy (and he wasn’t the only Marlboro Man who died from a smoking-related illness, according to an article by Nate Jones in People magazine). Actually, I also created my own anti-smoking campaign when I was growing up because I constantly bothered my parents to quit, and they eventually did–and that was before the government promoted that smoking was harmful.
Whether the government is involved or not, it just goes to show that no matter what attractive images companies put out there, the truth will come out. It can seem like false advertising when a company has a message that is destructive or simply is not true.
Whatever you’re willing to commit to in your promotional messages, you should be genuine so that there won’t be any negative consequences. You can dress something up to make it pretty, but if it doesn’t have much substance and ends up misleading people, it will eventually catch up with you. Then you’ll have to spend a lot of time and energy on damage control.