Humblebragging Is Bad Marketing

To sell your best self, think more like Clark Kent than Superman.

Social media has given rise to the art of humblebragging, where people whine in such a way as to glorify themselves. For example: “The cell reception is terrible at my beach house!” In the form of complaint, you’re actually giving yourself (or your lifestyle) a compliment.

Though the concept has been around since the dawn of time, social media gives us more platforms to permanently express these utterings to a wider audience. Social media is also where we try to show our best selves and curate our life experiences to make it look much better than it usually is — simply omit the hardships, exaggerate the benefits, and bam! Your life is #blessed.

While there’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek to be expected (and a high level of tolerance for the artfully or amusingly crafted humblebrag), the truth is that the humblebrag doesn’t have any leeway when it comes to marketing. If your copy includes false modesty, it’s more likely than ever that people will see right through it — and your brand will actually lower in their esteem.

One reason is that honesty is important in branding, while humblebragging is perceived as insincere. There’s nothing that turns people off across all demographics than being played; in fact, most polls report that people would rather see a brand outright self-promote and boast, rather than try to trick the viewer into sympathy. 

Instead of Humblebrag Marketing:

When in doubt, it’s safer to go straight for confidence: “Our business is the best, here’s why.” If you’ve got something to share with the world, it’s understandable that you’d want to share it.

But if that’s not your company’s brand personality, another way to get around pridefulness is third-party compliments. For example, a testimonial allows others to say great things about your company so that you don’t need to do it yourself.

If you do want to execute a message that could be conveyed as humblebragging, one tip is to veer away from social media, where the technique is most abused. It would also be best to use the humblebrag (or something close to it) in a limited capacity — unlike, say, a frequent radio spot that could quickly wear out its welcome. 

But our best advice is to deliver your excellent work and wait for the praise to come through. Then it’s just a matter of (modestly) revealing the results.


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