Yes, I do want to find out if my great-great grandfather was the captain of a pirate ship. It’s free if I enter my name and my father’s name and my grandfather’s name. Awesome!


“Please enter email address for the document to be sent.”


“Please enter your credit card information and billing address. Also, click the monthly package you would like to subscribe for.”

Aww, I thought this site said it was free.


“Wait! If you join now, you will save $1.00 when you buy the $50.00/month package!”

Ugh. I just want to leave this page.

The tricks of deceptive marketing and all the problems that follow

I’ve been falling for this trick for years. Some people may ask how are you so stupid to fall for such things.

“Nothing is free.”

“What’s the catch?”

“It’s too good to be true.”

Those are clichés for a reason. They are used so often because people are scammed so often. I’m not talking about walking into the grocery store and the new hire accidentally put up the banana price tag next to the apples. Clearly this was a mistake, and you would know it after comparing the sign and the produce. What I’m talking about is marketing where the ad purposefully lures you in to only send you running away.

Companies say that there is this free product available or this great sale going on, but really the product costs money and the sale product is just as expensive or more so than the original. So, what’s the catch? Why isn’t free really free?

Some marketing strategies are very misleading. However, that does not make those strategies better because they sold a product to consumers due to confusion. That would be called a scam. We’ve all been baited and switched at some point in our lives as consumers—had the rug pulled right out from under us. I’m sure most of us have been victims of high-pressure sales where we end up buying a product we didn’t even want in the first place. And, watch out for fine print. It will get you every time.

The penalties for false advertising vary according to the offense(s). Of course the fraud will cost you the money that it cost the investors, which can range from thousands to millions of dollars. Also, false advertising is a criminal offense worthy of jail time spanning years. Even the smallest tweak of information and emphasis makes all the difference.

Before you send out an ad, read everything meticulously and review the overall impression you are giving the audience. The number one reason for false advertising claims is a sense of a distorted overall impression compared to the literal product. If you are in doubt about your company’s policy, ask a supervisor or do some research to find answers before making any claims in an advertisement. Another key to escaping the horrors of false advertising is to disclose all necessary information about the product to the consumer at the time of the advertisement. Don’t wait for a “Gotcha!” moment that takes the consumer off guard. The more the audience knows, the more sure the consumer will be interested in your product.

In the end, tell the truth in your advertising. That approach is a lot simpler than having to con consumers into investments and paying the price later.

Creative Spot is a full-service marketing and advertising agency in Columbus, Ohio. If you would like to learn more about how we can help your organization with strategic marketing, please contact us.