Deceptive marketing – what’s your long-term goal?

Pizzarella: pizza cheese lookalike without the cheese

Pizzarella: pizza cheese lookalike without the cheese

Here’s something I end up going back to again and again.  I consider this Marketing 101, the basis for making good marketing decisions.  Consider, if you will, the classical 4 P’s of marketing: product, price, place and promotion.  Whatever the media, be it toothpaste or a blog post, the 4 P’s always apply.

Today I’ll focus on the Product.  Wikipedia says it succinctly: the specifications of the actual goods or services, and how it relates to the end-user’s needs and wants.  In short, it’s everything that defines the product, including the packaging.
In the past week, I’ve encountered two packaged goods that practice what I call “deceptive marketing.”  Instead of being up-front about the product, these products hide one of their most defining characteristics.
Product number one: fake cheese, that is cheese that has no milk in it and has no dairy component.  The fake cheese is packaged so that it looks like real grated cheese and only in the very fine print on the back of the bag can you see the text “this product does not contain milk”.  I assume that a customer will buy and use the fake cheese believing that it is real cheese, unless he sees the fine print on the back.
Dove Energize Soap: with lemongrass, grapefruit and... beads?

Dove Energize Soap: with lemongrass, grapefruit and... beads?

In the second product I encountered, the new Energize soap by Dove, I was surprised to see exfoliating “beads” in the soap when I opened it.  Since I’m not a fan of sand-like beads in my soap, I took a second look at the package to see if I missed that descriptor, and it, too, was only found in the fine print on the side of the box.

Would you want to buy such a cheese? Probably not, I know I wouldn’t. Tricking me is probably the only way the company can get me to buy it.  As for the soap, I’m not sure why Dove thought tricking me is necessary to get me to buy the soap.  I would imagine that beads in soap for some people is a positive attribute, otherwise Dove wouldn’t have added it in the first place.  If that’s the case, why doesn’t Dove display it prominently? 
In both cases, however, deceptive packaging doesn’t work in the long term. What both companies don’t seem to realize is that you can trick a customer once.  The second time I’ll not only choose a different product, but I’ll probably avoid the company altogether.  Is that what you want?

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