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Marketing Deception – Bad Marketers Vs. The Rebellion

How are marketers deceiving consumers these days? In fact, according to this research paper, there are 6 different types of marketing deception, or stealth marketing. How stealthy is your marketing? Have you engaged in any of these types of marketing deception types? We have to make sure our marketing is ethical and honest. Great business is about building great relationships. Great relationships are built on honesty. 

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I’m actually in school right now. We had been assigned a course project, in which we had to read a paper that used the movie “Keeping Up with the Joneses” to illustrate the different types of marketing deception. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. 

Marketing Deception vs the Rebellion

What Is the Marketing Rebellion?

When I say rebellion, I’m actually referring to Mark Schaefer’s The Marketing Rebellion, a business book I highly recommend. 

The author talks about how we are in what he considers the third marketing rebellion. This is reflected in all types of marketing that are most likely to succeed, which is partly why content marketing is so important today. 

People want to make up their own minds and they want others to just be honest. That’s why marketing deception is a terrible response to the marketing rebellion. 

What Is Marketing Deception?

Marketing deception, aka stealth marketing, is when marketers disguise marketing communications with the intent to influence the consumer. 

I’d like to note the word influence. This is dishonest. You’re trying to get people to do something they may not have done if they knew that your intent was to get them to spend money. 

The Importance of Disclosing Affiliate Links

This is also why we have to disclose things like affiliate links. That’s where the influencer marketing dishonesty comes from. It’s easier to identify macro-influencers than micro-influencers. 

Sometimes, you’ll see that everything they put on their Instagram, they’re trying to sell you. It’s obvious that it’s a big sale, so more companies are connecting with micro-influencers. These are people have smaller, but more engaged communities. That’s typically why they work better than macro-influencers. 

However, it may be harder for a consumer to suss out that this person is an influencer and they were paid for this post. This is why now influencers have to make it clear when they’re paid. 

The 6 Types of Marketing Deception

According to this research paper on, there are 6 types of stealth marketing or marketing deception.

1. Marketer to Consumer Deception 

This is the premise of the entire movie “Keeping Up with the Joneses.” If you haven’t seen this movie before, it’s about a family who moves into a suburban neighborhood. 

The family is made up of a teenage son and daughter, a beautiful wife, and a very handsome husband. They move to this area with the intent of influencing people to make purchases without disclosing that they’re marketing. 

  • The girl is trying to get people to buy makeup and clothes.
  • The boy sells sports and electronics equipment. 
  • The husband markets high-end cigars and male luxuries.
  • The wife is the ring leader, sand she tries to get women to buy high-end luxuries, like clothing, kitchen equipment, etc. 

Our task for the project was to determine which type of marketing was the most harmful, which I later determined to be a marketer to consumer deception

The reason why is because as a marketer, I have a professional obligation to be ethical, honest. Nobody wants to feel like they got the rug pulled out from under them. No matter what type of marketing it is, the buck stops with the marketer who’s paying for/creating it. 

Sony’s Fake Fan Site

Want a real life example? Sony paid to create a fake fan site to generate buzz for one of their new products.

As a content marketer, I was outright offended because I create content. Yes, the content is meant to help generate sales, but it’s not framed in such a dishonest way like this. 

The content that I write goes up on company websites. We try to help prospective clients make a decision that will make them the most happy. If you get a sale from this, it’s because the prospect decided you were the best solution, and that’s what content is meant to do. 

It shouldn’t be done in a dishonest way, but in an informative, entertaining way. The customer chooses you because you are the best choice. 

2. Consumer to Marketer Deception

I feel like this one’s more of a defense mechanism. You might be thinking, “How does a consumer lie to a marketer?” 

Well, you go onto a website and they need you to give them your email address, so you enter in a throwaway email address that you don’t check. This is you deceiving the marketer. 

This happens when everybody’s trying to gate things all the time. In the research paper, they likened it to people going to the dealership without the intent of buying the car. You just want to drive it. 

3. Marketer to Marketer Deception 

Current partners may make poor decisions, and you swoop in to get some of their market share. This doesn’t happen directly to the consumer. 

4. Consumer to Consumer Deception  

Consumer to consumer deception typically involves collecting information or influencing others without informing them, similarly to the marketer to consumer deception. 

The Girls Intelligence Agency’s Involuntary Focus Groups 

Their example was the Girls Intelligence Agency, which employs 40,000 girls between the ages of 8-29 to gather information mainly through slumber parties. Basically, they’re holding focus groups with unwitting participants. Terrible.  

5. Marketer Self-Deception 

This is one of the biggest ones for our marketers. How are marketers deceiving themselves when it comes to their marketing, impact, and effectiveness?

How Tobacco Companies Started Failing 

You can see it in how tobacco companies failed to adapt. Once all the research studies started coming out, they just kept acting like business was normal. 

They put the warning labels on the packets, and thought that was good enough. They didn’t really do anything at all. 

6. Consumer Self-Deception 

As a consumer we allow ourselves to become convinced to buy things, but regret it later. 

When you do have a regret around something that you’ve purchased, you really have to consider whether that landing page was what caused you to buy, or were you serving some other ideal. Another ideal being something like, “My friend bought it, so I want it.” 

We oftentimes deceive ourselves in terms of what we need and how much we can afford. That was even one of the big cruxes of the movie. I don’t want to ruin it if you haven’t seen it. 

Ethical Marketing Only

We have to be on the lookout, guys! Ethical marketing only. You don’t want your customers to feel like you’re lying to them. That’s how you get a hater for life. They will hate you forever and tell everyone about it. 

All right, that’s been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast. I’m your host Ruthie. Please leave us a comment or a review. Let us know what you liked about this episode. Give us some feedback. I live on feedback, so please talk to me. You don’t understand how important those things are to a successful and thriving podcast. I will see you next time!