New Trends in Consumer Marketing Means the Death of Deceptive Business as Usual

deceptive-marketing-practicesMarketing archetypes have been around for a long time; the deceptive village shaman selling defunct herbs and spices as ‘magical’ healers, the greasy oil tycoon buying land around and exploiting a small town, the fast-talking car salesman, selling ‘lemons’; and in today’s economy, and the shifty business, hiding behind Web and digital resources, ready to provide poor services and products for a quick buck, are all iterations of seedy businesspeople.

A recent New York Times article briefed readers on the deceptive methods of some of today’s brands, passing commercial drivel off as news stories stemming from respected publishers.  What’s worse is publishers are willing to blur the lines of commercial and objectivity in exchange for payment.  It’s not entirely ethical; nor is it very easy for consumers to distinguish between genuine and deceptive business practices.


Whether aligned with a brand’s core vision or inspired by the infrastructure of social media (today’s consumers can blast any brand with a tweet or Facebook post), today’s brands do well in executing transparency.  If a brand makes a mistake or a consumer is not happy, genuine brands quickly offer assistance and relay public apologies to disgruntled consumers.

Brands of yesteryear did not experience such a high demand for transparency.  In an era when consumers around the world are connected, it’s difficult to sweep mistakes ‘under the rug.’  Owning to mistakes and embracing opportunity for change are actions of transparent brands.


Online resources created differences in ethics and transparency.  For example, for years, before aggressive penalties and evolved algorithm updates, particular Web masters manipulated search engines, relying upon the assumption of consumers.  Most assume an engine’s ‘top’ results reflect the ‘best’ query results.  Those who are experienced know that is not true, but many, including the search engines, assume as much.  Therefore, unethical methods boosted rankings regardless of quality and commitment to customer service.

Many unsuspecting customers grew disappointed at results and began questioning the online ethics of brands.  Those who do offer quality products and services, those who don’t rely on manipulative methods, compensate for poor peer examples through ‘white hat’ or genuine actions associated to better customer service.  Today’s brands understand gaining trust is an integral element of online marketing.


Abstaining from methods of deception and gaining trust are duties of branding.  Branding consultants help companies express personality, creating short and long-term associations, making stable impressions on a targeted market.  It’s not enough to emotionally want to serve consumers’ best interests; and, it’s not enough to arrange associated sentiments ‘here and there’ throughout ad literature.  A company needs ongoing branding.  Branding translates positive, core-mission sentiments into practical, everyday business operation.

Today’s consumers are not in the dark; the preexistence of questionable methods, combined with user-rated sites like Yelp, inform the public of the good, the bad, and the ugly brands.  Quality products and services, along with a dedication toward customer appreciation, are core tenets of successful businesses.  Some businesses, choosing to use deception, plague industries of all kinds; yet, digital deception, like all kinds of deception, will never win the favor of consumers.

Steven Berry is a marketing consultant. His articles mainly appear on small business and website marketing blogs.

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