I have a rule that applies to everyone. It applies to friends, family, students, and coworkers. Don’t lie to me or manipulate me. (Okay – so there are really two rules, but you get the point). This rule applies especially to people trying to sell me stuff. So imagine my reaction when I saw this video for Cover Girl mascara:
So why was I so annoyed? If you look carefully at the lash close-up, you will notice in tiny mice type (so small that most of us cannot read the statement), the statement, “lashes styled with lash inserts”. The make-up team adds false eyelashes to the model before shooting. It isn’t the mascara that gives you the thick, full, long eyelashes at all, it’s the false eyelashes. At a minimum, this is implying a false benefit – in other words, it is misleading and manipulative. Some would argue that this is a lie, as the advertiser knew that the results were unobtainable for the average product user, so they put a disclaimer on the ad. The only problem is that the disclaimer is so small that most people would not read it.
Marketers need to stop this kind of false promise. That’s why we require pharmaceutical companies to list all the side effects of a drug in those wonderfully attractive ads.
At best, false promises eventually lead to the deterioration of a brand’s equity. At worse, they lead to a complete mistrust of marketing. Whether you are a marketer, a boss or a leader, don’t make exaggerated promises. They will catch up to you eventually.