As the web matures and users become more web savvy, it’s becoming more dangerous than ever to engage in deceptive marketing practices.
In the post Blogs and the Art of Deception I wrote about a website which was designed to look like a blog. Instead of “testimonials” the faux blog contained hard coded “comments” to act as user testimonials, compete with avatars – pulled from the site’s image folder on the web server.
I found it to be a work of marketing art – but also incredibly deceptive and offensive.
It’s not the first time deception has been used in the name of “marketing.” Consumers are becoming more skeptical about advertising and as a result, advertisers are trying to “slip” under the consumer’s radar by creating “deceptive” marketing campaigns.
The problem however lies in the fact that the new “social web” is making engaging in such deceptive marketing tactics even more dangerous for advertisers to engage in.
The site I found recently isn’t the first or last to try to use deception to sell products or services.
There are many stories of companies using deception to try to sell more products and services. One disastrous instance of deceptive marketing is when Sony launched the PS3 back in 2006. As the holiday season approached, a new website hit the scene. AllIWantForXmasIsAPSP.com was supposedly the creation of two enterprising young geeks who created a dorky rap video to persuade their parents to buy a PS3. The video appeared on YouTube and at the same time, users began showing up on video gamer sites talking about the video and the site.
The problem – the video WAS NOT the brainchild of two incredibly enterprising young men who desperately wanted the latest PlayStation console for Christmas but rather was a deceptive marketing campaign. That deceptive marketing campaign was executed by a marketing company that seriously underestimated the backlash the deception would generate amongst the target audience. To say the campaign did damage to the PlayStation brand would be an understatement.
Now, in stark contrast to the disasterous Sony PS3 deceptive marketing campaign was the wildly successful Office Max campaign – launched that same holiday season.
Instead of creating a campaign based upon deception, Office Max engaged the marketing company Toy New York to create the wildly popular “Elf Yourself” site – where users could transform photos of themselves into dancing elves. There was no doubt that the site is an Office Max production – but the site also didn’t try to shove Office Max products down the users throat in the process.
At it’s peak, the site is reported to have been generating 41000 elves each hour and increased traffic to the Office Max website by 20% over the previous year.
Two marketing campaigns launched during the same season with polar opposite results. One was for a product that should have been in high demand just by virtue of it’s audience – and the other – well, I don’t know of too many Christmas wish lists that begin with printer ink and end with staplers.
Honesty has always been the best policy when it comes to advertising. If you find yourself even THINKING about launching a deceptive marketing campaign – stop and think again.
Remember the Walmart social marketing disasters. A few years ago, Walmart gained significant notoriety by sponsoring several social networking sites and blogs which were so thinly veiled that it was obvious they were merely advertisements. That PR disaster has effectively locked the world’s largest retailer firmly out of the social media marketing scene.
Advertising and Marketing doesn’t have to be difficult and it certainly doesn’t have to be deceptive. If you’re a small business owner, struggling to come up with an effective marketing campaign pick up a copy of my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results