Promotion and Advertising: Is It Always true?

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 726 , Published on 04 December 2015

Promotion can be either through ‘push’ or ‘pull’. Various sales promotion such as Consumer and Trade promotions comes under push strategy, wherein sales representatives manipulate the retailers or consumers to meet their ends. Whereas, advertising is a form of ‘pull’ strategy that can be very deceitful and demeaning.

The company in order to mint profit can target the population on the basis of gender inequality, colour indifference and other such touchy factors. Most of the gender stereotyping is learned through the society rather than innate. The power difference between male and female in Indian society can be very much depicted through ads. These ads showcase males to possess leadership qualities, a knack for technology, or aggressiveness and women are portrayed as gentle, emotional, submissive, or loving. Promotions also influence the concept of ‘self’ where people associate themselves with the image of expensive lifestyle, perfect figure, and fair complexion. The difference between the real self and the idealized self creates disharmony and stress in an individual.

Image: pixabay

Even men are primarily described to be in executive roles with higher social status. On the other hand, women are depicted as lying on floors and beds as objects of men’s make-believe attacks. In our country people are divided not only along the lines of gender but also that of social status. There are many promotions which tend to demean people for instance, the ads where fair complexion is depicted as a marker of success and vice-versa. Such promotions come from some very popular fairness creams such as Fair and Lovely, Fair and Handsome, etc. Similarly, a detergent advertised by Rin mocks people of their low economic status for not being able to afford a five star hotel.

The promotions in India are many a times offensive, deceptive and based on subliminal advertising myth. The biggest example of subliminal advertising is of deodorants like Axe Effect, which always tends to objectify male sexuality appeal to unconsciously manipulate the consumers.

One of the promotions showed Mahendra Singh Dhoni as God Vishnu with four hands in Business Today magazine. It invoked a sharp reaction among the devotees. The advocates filed petition against Dhoni for this offensive advertisement. And as per the research paper ‘Advertising Controversial Products in the Asia Pacific: What Makes Them Offensive?’ published by Springer- The following attributes are found to offend people in Asia:

• Individualism/Collectivism dimension

• Confucian dynamism

• Religion

Thus, we can find many brands that offend sentiments of millions of people by contrasting celebrity with God or Goddess through advertisements. However, many companies have learnt through hard way not to demean people’s sentiments but still they continue to do so.

In a competitive world, brands have found an easier way to increase the sales of their products – deceit or mislead the consumers by making empty promises, showing wrong attributes of the products or having a tagline which is catchy and making a promise which is not feasible. Let’s look at some of those misleading taglines by various brands:

‘Look younger. Use…Age Miracle Cream’

‘Personal Loan in 2 minutes’

‘Fair & Lovely Hai Unbeatable… Lagi 5 Crore ki Shart.’

These are just few misleading statements by renowned brands. Consumer generally falls prey to such deceitful promotional statements. Fair & Lovely even lost the 5 Crore bet when the company named CBI, challenged Fair & Lovely and it proved that its product ‘Clean Chit’ was more effective than Fair & Lovely. Nitin Paranjpe, the MD of HUL would have never imagined that someone would challenge this misleading statement given by the brand.

A promotion is referred to as deceptive and deceitful when it misleads the audience, shows a different reality and thus affects the buying behavior of the consumers. According to the US Federal Trade Commission, an advertisement is deceptive when claims in the ads are:

1. factually incorrect;

2. has multiple interpretations;

3. not having relevant information;

Deceitful promotions and advertisements can generally be classified into two categories; promotions that potentially violates the right to information of a consumer and promotions that cause financial loss and mental anguish to a consumer. Brands frequently use paid testimonials and paid endorsements, demean a competitor’s product by showing wrong or incomplete information, quotes wrong prices to persuade a consumer to buy their product. Such things fall under the category of violating the right to information of a consumer. Many FMCG brands engage in such activities and provide deceitful promotions to the consumer, for instance, a fairness cream claims to give complete fairness in just four weeks, the anti-ageing brands claim to give a younger skin and make one look like a 25 year old. Consumers fall for the trap after seeing such promotions and thus are being violated of their right to information.

Many brands offer discounts, price-offs, and coupons but in the corner of their promotional poster, they write “conditions apply” and sometimes those conditions are not even specified. The consumers do not even notice it and are easily fooled by such deceitful promotional campaigns by the brands. A small asterisk followed by the statement that completely makes the promotional scheme null and void is written in extremely small font, which are sometimes not even clearly visible. Some of those statements are:

“Conditions Apply”

“Scheme is valid only in North India”

“The product in the box may differ from the original products”

Such tricks are not new and are followed by almost all the brands. The promotions may appear very appealing and catchy but almost all of the time they are deceptive and misleading. The consumer ignorantly believes what he sees and falls prey to such promotions. These promotions are more popular during festival seasons in India when consumers are on a shopping spree and brands capitalize this opportunity to their advantage, by showing deceitful advertisements and promotions.

The Government has come up with strong provisions to deal with such unfair trade practices and deceptive advertisements but laws are not being enforced properly. The brands continue with their practices of deceiving and demeaning consumers when promoting their product or service. India is a country with diverse culture and faith and sometimes brands tend to hurt the sentiments of the people by insulting their faith. Promotion is a tool for increasing the awareness of the products among the target audience and persuade them to buy their products or services and the companies should be honest while doing so. Demeaning and deceiving a consumer can be fatal and may become the reason of their departure from a particular country and brands need to hold accountability for the same.

This article has been authored by Mohd Mohtashim from IMT Ghaziabad


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