Sex, Lies and Marketing

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.


1 reply »

  1. I think we had this conversation once and I seem to remember you insisting that it doesn’t work that way. That was that marketing and sales tells you the truth in such a way as to make you believe a lie.
    I find it common in almost all advertising. If it wasn’t then there would be no reason to add a disclaimer to the ad. There is almost always a catch in an ad and if you get used to asking yourself “What is the catch?” you are likely to find it. You do have to make one assumption to help find the catch and that is that “The ad was created by a used car salesperson from the 50’s and 60’s, or they received training from that used car salesperson.”
    It’s not difficult to distrust advertising since every car is the best, every laundry detergent cleans the whitest, every toothpaste keeps your teeth the healthiest and whitest, every mascara gives you the longest lashes without the clumps, every hair colour matches you natural colour the best, etc, etc, etc……………
    “Buyer beware!” This still applies and as long as we have legalized scamming don’t let your guard down. Don’t forget, you may spend anywhere up to 24 hours deciding to buy a product and the advertiser spent weeks, possibly months, figuring out how to place a 60 second long disclaimer into a 15 to 30 second ad. If you are an impulse buyer you don’t have a prayer of getting the best of anything.
    It is an art practiced by many professions including, but not limited to, lawyers, marketing, sales (of any kind), military, governments, psychiatrists, doctors, service organizations, etc, etc……… Unavoidable in daily life so I look for the artist in a profession to deal with. An experience with an artist was when I upgraded my phone. I’m a person who likes a phone to do just that, make and receive calls. When I left the store I had upgraded to an iphone 4. I can now control most of the world from my phone. Why would a Luddite like myself do that. Well, my only answer is that when I left the store I knew I had been “Had!” yet I had a smile on my face and I felt really good about what I had just gone through. This salesperson is an artist and I will seek them out on my next upgrade or addition to my phone plan.
    Since I know it will happen I might as well get as much enjoyment out of it as possible. I don’t have to be a “miserable” cynic.

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