I've done it in articles I've written in the past. I've bad-mouthed methodologies that marketers have used… from using curvy spokespeople to touting ridiculous results. Some marketing gets on my nerves. But I don't matter in the marketing equation, neither does my opinion quite honestly.
A friend recently shared an offer he received from a company that looked like a well packaged card with a hand-written address and a sticker affixed with a reply address. It looked as though it could have come from friend or family. However, when he opened it up – it had an offer and he felt deceived. He was so upset, he took a photo and shared it on Facebook.
I don't question whether or not he deserved to be upset – that's his business. He has a right to his opinion. The question I stated in the response was at what point isn't marketing a disguise of some sort. We design sites for small startups that make them look like enterprise businesses. We design world-class infographics for clients who struggle with their marketing budgets. We secure case studies and testimonials from the clients who get the best results.
Is that deceitful?
In my opinion, marketing is very much like dating. You don't go on a date in those comfy sweats that you throw on. You take a shower, you dress up, you get your hair right and throw on some cologne… you want to look good.
Are you deceitful?
The perception might be yes. You're looking to attract someone enough to see how well you like them. After a few dates, you may or may not decide to further the relationship.
Getting a direct mail piece that's hand-written may attract someone enough to open it. When I ran direct mail services, I told our clients that we had to capture someone's attention in the short walk between the mailbox and the trashcan. That calls for some serious creativity to stand out from the crowd. Technologies have evolved so much on direct mail that some printers have systems that literally write the labels and even alternate styles of the characters so that no two letters look alike!
I'll add that those technologies aren't inexpensive. That advertiser spent much more on that hand-written (style) card than they would have simply to stick a one-page mailer in the mailbox. Spending that additional money definitely resulted in a higher engagement rate and most likely resulted in a greater conversion rate.
The true question or not of whether marketing is deceitful is not my nor my friend's opinion. The true judge is the prospect and, ultimately, the company's retention success. If customer churn is a huge issue, a marketer may be attracting customers but they're likely missing expectations and need to realign their marketing strategies.
I don't think attracting someone to open, view or click is deceitful – I believe it's the job of marketers to move people into a sales journey and until a decision can be made on whether or not the customer can benefit from doing business with you.
Opening the envelope didn't commit anyone to a subscription, it just did a great job in getting their marketing viewed instead of put in the trash. Almost every day I find myself watching a commercial, downloading a whitepaper, or opening an email that I thought was a waste of my time. I don't get upset about it, nor do I think it's deceitful.
I just move on.