I was reading a great conversation over at The Social Customer Manifesto (thanks Johnnie) about whether it is reasonable for marketers to "lie" to customers. The conversation is centered around the content of Seth Godin's new book All Marketer's Are Liars, and in particular this:
"Tell a story that is memorable and remarkable and worth listening to. Seduce your customers, because that’s exactly what they want you to do. That requires ruthless selectivity and creative storytelling—in other words, lying."
Health and beauty product manufacturers are amongst the most prolific "tellers of tales" that are, if nothing else, "remarkable." In their continual race to be better than the rest, they advertise relentlessly and are forever updating their products and telling us new stories that con us into believing that we can be better, younger or fresher looking. They will make our skin softer and our hair shinier. They tell us they have "the stuff" that contains "ingredient X" that will make us more relaxed, more alert, more energetic as well as increasing our sexual potency.
But in playing this game of manipulation, global shaving giant Gillette has come unstuck.
The Boston based company launched its M3Power razor early last year. They told us that it was "a revolutionary powered wet shaving system for men," that delivered the world's best shave. The trick was in the breakthrough razor technology that delivered gentle pulses that stimulated hair upwards and away from the skin. I remember when it was launched in Australia, excited Gillette marketers hooked up with Sir Richard Bran son to have the Mach3Power livery adoring one of his Virgin Blue Jets..
But this week, a US federal judge rule that Gillette's claims about its new razor were "unsubstantiated and inaccurate," its advertising "greatly exaggerated" and "literally false".
(I thought all advertising was "greatly exaggerated" and "literally false")
As a result of this ruling, Gillette was ordered to change packaging and advertising for the product and remove in-store displays featuring the false claims.
It will be interesting to see if Gillette in Australia- which is a separate entity- follows.
So whilst All Marketers might Be Liars, it is good to see some of them getting caught. It will be interesting to see what kind of precedent this decision sets.
My bet is that marketers, advertisers and companies will thumb their noses at the decision, and that the practice of deceiving customers about the performance of products will continue unabated.