Ethical Questions for Marketers – Part 7

Welcome to the newest installment of our weekly blog series, Ethical Questions for Marketers. Each week we plan to introduce a new topic and explore it in detail, preparing marketers for the day when they face such a problem at their organization.

Last week’s topic was Ad Targeting.

This week’s topic: Deceptive Advertising

You can’t make deliberately false claims in your advertising. There are laws against that. And if you get caught and charged, the fines are sometimes enough to put you out of business. Even if they don’t, the negative press might. So don’t do it.

But what if you’re just overstating the benefits a little? Or using vague language that is not technically a lie?

No company will admit in public that they employ these kinds of deceptive advertising practices. But the truth is, many do. And as a marketer or small business owner, you need to determine how far you are willing to go and when to draw the line.

Some examples of deceptive advertising practices include:

  • Bait and switch – advertising an offer to get customers in the door or on the phone only to tell them that offer is no longer available
  • False environmental claims – stating that your product is better for the environment when it is actually not
  • Overstating benefits – making unsubstantiated claims about the impact of your product or service
  • Misleading comparisons – comparing your product to another in a way that makes customers think they’re more similar than they are
  • Photography tricks – using photos in your advertising that look nothing like what customers will actually see when they buy your product
  • Hidden fees – advertising a price that is far lower than the final price a consumer will pay

The key point to remember is that though some of these strategies may work in the short term, they will always hurt a brand in the long run. Consumers are not dumb, and they like to share stories of deception with their friends. You will develop a reputation for scamming people and eventually, your sales will suffer.

Stay tuned next week for another installment of our Ethical Questions for Marketers series. If you have an ethical topic you’d like to see addressed, write us.