Thursday, 17 November 2011

When does marketing become lying?

Faced with the question 'When does marketing become lying?' many of those who are suspicious of capitalism and business are likely to come up with the knee jerk response 'Is there a difference?' But that's not fair. Marketing is a perfectly legitimate and sensible activity. You would have to be stupid not to want potential customers to see your product or service in the best light - and as soon as you aspire to this, you are thinking of marketing.

Unfortunately sometimes marketing crosses the line into deception. I posted quite a while ago about a marketing campaign where apparently hand-written post-it notes were attached to fake newspapers describing a trainer's work. I've also complained to advertising standards a couple of times about advertising that I think crosses the line. In both cases they didn't agree. One involved paper junk mail for a charity where the envelope implied it contained important personal information and it didn't.

The other was an email that had a subject line that said you had won a prize - in the body of the email it turned out that you hadn't won, you just had an opportunity to enter a competition to win said prize. Now I think that's deception. I wouldn't have read the email if it hadn't been for that lying subject line, and that wasted my time. But advertising standards didn't back me up. Sigh.

I've just had some spam that really pushes the boundary on fibbing, though. It starts out like this:
Hi Brian
I had so many business cards in my drawer that
I have put them all in a Rolodex efficiently.

It may have been a while since we met,
sorry I haven’t been in touch sooner.

However, I would like to get you lunch if I may please,
it would be a great opportunity to meet again after
such a long time.
It goes on to try to get me to go along to some kind of (apparently free) event including lunch. Now I have never met this person and have certainly not given them my card. This is made doubly clear because I received the mail twice to two different email addresses, one of which isn't on my card. What I don't understand is why the people sending this out think it will encourage me to think positively of someone who is fibbing about knowing me. Sorry, guys, it's a turn off. When marketing crosses the line it ceases to have a positive value. And that's a lesson every business needs to learn.

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