Is Lying the New Marketing Normal?

There are plenty of studies that emphasize the importance of the subject line. And, with many email clients providing a snippet of the first paragraph of the email in a preview panel, somewhere a marketer decided it was okay to lie in order to garner your attention.

email“I noticed you didn’t complete your registration.”

“As I mentioned in my phone call to you…”

“You had asked me to follow up…”

These are just three of the opening lines used in emails to me lately, and while they may have been designed to be the second step in a contact strategy, the reality is: I have never had any contact with these organizations.

And, since I’ve noticed these techniques repeatedly, I have to believe they are deliberately designed to “trick” me into believing I was part of some previous interaction. But is that the right way to try and start a relationship that will lead to a sale?

With our in-boxes clogged with an increasing number of unsolicited emails (the Radicati Group claims the average office worker receives 121 emails a day), and 49.7 percent of that is considered spam, recipients are making a decision in 8 seconds as to whether or not your email is worthy of a longer look.

There are plenty of studies that emphasize the importance of the subject line. And, with many email clients providing a snippet of the first paragraph of the email in a preview panel, somewhere a marketer decided it was okay to lie in order to garner your attention.

Deceptive selling practices are certainly not a new idea. In his 1985 book “Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage,” author Dr. Paul Ekman writes, “There are two primary ways to lie: to conceal and to falsify. In concealing, the liar withholds some information without actually saying anything untrue. In falsifying, the liar takes an additional step. Not only does the liar withhold true information, but he presents false information as if it were true.”

In marketing, lying usually means manipulation and — let’s face it — advertising doesn’t exactly maintain a reputation for honesty. Who can forget Skechers and Kim Kardashian who teamed up to claim that by simply putting on a pair of their shoes you’d magically get buns of steel? The FTC didn’t buy it, and they ended up paying a $40 million settlement.

Classmates.com lied in their email when they told prospects that an old friend was trying to contact them. It cost them a $9.5 million class-action lawsuit.

So what does a lie achieve?

For starters, it completely disintegrated the credibility of DM News as they used one of the tactics I noted at the start of this blog in a recent email to me. As one of my industry go-to resources, they should know better.

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

18 thoughts on “Is Lying the New Marketing Normal?”

  1. Great article and thanks for sharing. The only thing I would take issue with is the statistic saying people take 8 seconds to determine if an email is spam. That’s enough time to read the entire email. Can’t see that happening.

    1. Thanks… and I agree that I make a decision in about 2 seconds… but apparently, we are not the norm.

    1. Donald doesn’t lie. The national news media is spreading “fake news” – synonymous with Trump’s rise in politics.

      1. Donald doesn’t lie?? You’re joking, right? I can name about a dozen lies he’s told right now.
        Biggest inaugural crowd ever. –LIE
        Hundreds of thousands or people were bussed to NH from MA and RI to vote — LIE
        Thousands of people illegal aliens cheered in NJ when the towers fell. –LIE
        2-1/2 to 3 million illegal aliens voted for Hillary.–LIE
        I could go on and on…but what’s the point. The toddler in chief name calls and lies ALL THE TIME. It’s really the only thing he’s good at.

          1. Sorry, Tom. I thought it might be sarcasm…but then again, I see so many dopes that still think Obama is a Kenyan, that I wasn’t sure. Sorry for the rant.

    2. The sad thing is he doesn’t think he’s lying. He thinks he’s providing “leadership.” Most politicians engage in some fudging of the facts, some of the time, but I’ve never, ever seen anything like this. The past few months have felt like dog years due to the manners and messaging coming from the White House. I hope this negative attitude doesn’t leach into our pop culture and advertising!

  2. Carolyn, great post! I am a great believer in the integrity chain: integrity => trust => repeat business => profitability.

    I have worked with so many companies who take a short-term, versus a long-term, view they’re willing to cut-corners to make their numbers. Wells Fargo has survived, so far. Enron and Worldcom didn’t.

    I like to think the “good guys” will win; however, I see a lot of “bad guys” making a lot of money before they’re found out.

    1. Oh so true. Once the “bad guys” figured out that consumers can be quite gullible, they started selling “fake” everything from diet pills to hair loss replacement solutions. They definitely take the money and run.

  3. Trust is bedrock to credibility, and why would anyone buy from someone (or some organization) who (that) wasn’t credible? Ditto to what Tom said about integrity.

  4. Lying can work. Up to a point. But not much after that. If you truly want to create a long term profitable relationship with your customers, then do not lie. Ever. About anything. But if you’re in it for a quick buck with no follow-up, and you don’t care about this industry, then lie away…you liar. Now I’ve got to go listen to that Henry Rollins song…

  5. Why did Seth Godin title one of his books All Marketers Are Liars … and then “change” it with some new words on the front cover? Is it because people got the wrong, I mean, right idea?

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