The Tower Of London is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London due to the many sources of tourist information proudly declaring its heritage as a place where hundreds of years of history have taken place, royalty have walked, and prisoners have been tortured. It is the last point that awakens the imagination and captures the interest of many of the tourists who visit this place. With its gruesome history including the beheading of Ann Boleyn and usage of torturous devices like the "Rack" and the "Scavenger's Daughter", it is shamefully entertaining to imagine these times of torture and suffering.
Outside the Tower of London, they take advantage of this barbaric time in the history with imagery and promotional materials -- right up until you buy the ticket and actually walk inside. As you walk through the Tower, nearly every sign mentioning this history of torture takes great pains to point out that very few prisoners were actually tortured here, despite the number of devices and legends of torture over the 16th and 17th centuries. It seems like a classic case of modern historians trying to rewrite their own history to avoid admitting that perhaps some of the ways of the past were not quite so regal or heroic as they have been written.
Instead, what if the Tower of London admit its own history... one that at times was bloody and led to prisoners being tortured, but one that is also now over. Admitting your own failures is a tough thing to do, but sometimes avoiding an obvious truth can be worse. The Tower of London misses the mark and undermines its own credibility in the process. Are you unintentionally doing the same with your business?
Most of us are not so good at admitting and publicizing our mistakes. If you can do it, however, you can create a much more powerful bond with your customers because they know what you have struggled with in order to get to the point that you are at today.
The Tower of London needs the context of the bloody time in history to put today into context. Most businesses need this context as well.
Standing apart for trying to project the perfect image is the obvious thing to do. Instead, if you could let your customers inside to know your biggest mistake and how it helped you to shape your business today, you could not only inspire your customers, but also give them a story to share with family and friends.
Rohit Bhargava is the author of the best selling marketing book Personality Not Included, a guide to how to use personality to promote your business. Part of the reason he started writing was to spotlight his own mistakes and try to learn from them. He’s still working on that.