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Manipulative Marketing Corner: "Is it really FREE or is it 'like FREE'?"

Manipulative Marketing Corner: "Is it really FREE or is it 'like FREE'?"

July 23, 2009

Creative or Deceptive? You decide ...

I got this email promotion from Staples just the other day. The subject line said: 'Can you say FREE?'

Like most people, I'm interested any time a store wants to give away something for FREE. But I found myself immediately looking for the weasel clause ... and it didn't take long! You don't get anything for free!

The ad says, 'By any backpack, get 100% back in Staples Rewards ... It's like gettig it FREE.'

Although it's not really free, the teaser got me to open it. It got me to read it and the ad did make me wonder if we need any new backpacks for school next month.

So what do you think? Is offering something that's 'like getting it FREE' a creative marketing tactic? Or, do you think it's deceptive?

Add your comments below or send them to me directly at JonGoldman@YourBusinessGPS.com.

Last month's dilemma

"Everything must Go!"

Remember the movie comedy, 'You Don't Mess with The Zohan'? In it, there's an electronics store called Going Out of Business. It seemed to work well for that store and it seems as if it's working well in real-life too because I'm seeing more and more 'liquidation sales' that seem to drag on forever.

EXAMPLE: There was a rug store in Atlanta recently that offered a six-month-long going-out-of-business sale before finally shutting its doors. But during the sale, the store actually increased its inventory during a 'total liquidation closeout.' Many states have laws against this type of practice, but they're not easy to enforce these days. So are these types of sales deceptive or creative?




My response: Deceptive. If it's clear that a business is trying to lead you to believe it's being forced to sell everything at a discount and is using terms like 'liquidation' and 'everything must go' just to get more floor traffic then it's deceptive. Warning: it's also a crime to mark up prices and then mark them down to regular price and call it a discount!

It's also a very short-sighted thinking. Why would a business want people to think it's not going to be in business 6 months or a year from now? You want people to come back -- not shop once never to return! And even those who do visit the store will probably feel they've been duped. So 6 months or a year from now they may have a giant liquidation sale, but it will be the last once and for all.