8 marketing messages we all know are lies

Ian Lurie

After a few years in marketing, it’s hard to say any of these without blushing. The louder we say it, the more you can depend on the fact that we’re lying:

  1. We care about your business. Typically said as the customer service department shoves something splintery into whatever orifice you forgot to seal shut.
  2. Made with you in mind. Only if ‘you’ means ’30 people locked in a room behind one-way glass, fed caffeine and sugar and then egged on by a facilitator until they were all ready to kill each other’.
  3. We will beat any price. Except prices in catalogs, prices from the store down the street, and any prices located while Mercury is in retrograde.
  4. We know you have other choices, and we appreciate your business. I heard this from airlines that feed me nuts and charge me for water, knowing full well the other airlines are preparing to charge extra for ‘in-flight conscious-level air supply’.
  5. We are certified experts! By the Elbonian University of Internet Marketing!
  6. Wholesome goodness. Written on foods comprised of mile-long molecules and unpronounceable ingredients.
  7. Helps your child’s development. Oh, really? To be fair, did anyone really believe leaving their kid to watch dancing puppets on the boob tube for 30 minutes would make their little bundle of joy smarter? I just thought they kept my overly precocious children entertained so I could curl up in a ball for 30 seconds.
  8. Retains value. Usually used in reference to cars. Means it only loses 75% of its value the moment you drive off the lot.

I was aiming for 10 but my kids are rebelling against bed time and my wife sounds like she may put them up for sale on eBay.

Is all marketing bad? No. But good marketing doesn’t lie, or even bend the truth. Got that?

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  1. Ian,
    I read your thoughts often, thanks for your gift. But I do not agree with this article. It’s dated. Yes, that mindset might have been true prior to the onslaught of social media, the true serum, for today’s brands. Whereby, the trend now is transparency in a brand’s DNA, how is it truly made and the utter honesty with this data. Truth in marketing is the next trend. Believe it.
    Hope to meet you someday.

  2. Love the list. Might I suggest :
    9. Scientifically proven – We found a scientist and reached a deal where he said we were the best thing in the world and we bought him a new condo
    10. Now with extra vitamins – New legislation means we can’t make the same claims as we used to, had to take the cancer causing ingredients out and have had to put something in it that is good for you so that you keep buying this stuff

  3. I have to disagree with you Ian on the last part of your article referring to good marketing doesn’t lie. Good marketing and a version of the truth would be more accurate I think.
    Everywhere I look, watch or read, its all about a version of the truth. My perception is my reality. Likewise, your perception is your reality.
    The bottom line, in a total utopian world, it would be great to get the absolute truth on everything advertised or stated. But we all know that won’t happen. Just follow the money.

  4. @Darrell I think there’s a difference between great storytelling, ala Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars (which I think is a spot-on description of how great marketing works) and lying.
    You’re totally correct – everyone has their own reality. The marketer’s job is to tell a story that’s compelling within the overlaps of their customers’ perceptions. But you do not have to lie to do that.

  5. Heh… I realise a LOT of smaller businesses use these. “Better value”, “Better service”, “More bang for the buck”, “best in (particular location)”… its becomes so meaningless already.
    Value means different things to different people – even when they buy the same things. One person might take a taxi primarily “to get there faster”, while another to “travel in comfort”. Businesses should appeal one group and stick to it. You might lose half the number of customers, but when the business is aligned you can charge triple the price!

  6. This is an interesting point…
    So what if you are one of the “good guys” that actually has years of experience, produces quality work, and actually does care about a client’s business?
    Because if their business grows from your work, doesn’t that provide a foundation for a longer term business relationship – isn’t that what we’re doing?
    I’m not naive about all this – in order to combat the ubiquity of these promises I think Internet Marketing still comes down to personal relationships (and results).

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