The Write Stuff

24 02 2012

There has always been a dark side to Marketing. In a society in which the primary burden is placed on the buyer rather than seller, it means that the balance of power is seldom in the hands of people like you and me. And while the internet has been the great leveler among business small and large, as well as for consumers with regard to information acquisition and comparison shopping, the truth is that this is no democracy.

No, it is a tyranny.

Take, for example, the current proliferation of fake online and mobile reviews. Now there has always been shady copywriting in advertising, so this is really nothing new. I have always held suspect gushing movie and book reviews (“A real page-turner,” “A farcical romp for the entire family!”). I know that some companies have used guerrilla Marketing techniques (like placing shills in tourist meccas, begging you to take their picture with that neato shiny brand new digital camera their employer is hawking). And I am fully aware that paid product placement happens in the movies and on TV all the time. It was no mistake that Met-Rx was atop the fridge in Friends.

But now things are getting out of hand. It has gotten to the point that you just can’t be sure about anything you read. Sites like Fiverr.com let anyone hang their shingle, announcing their willingness to do tasks for $5…which apparently now include writing fake reviews. And it is entirely possible that book reviews at Amazon may have even been written by the author…using a pseudonym, of course. Buy the book, baby!

In this era of ghostwriting tweeters and status updaters (who among the stars actually writes their own tweets anyway?), maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised at the onslaught of puffery. It’s a digital minefield out there, and we just have to be more careful where we step.

As an example, I downloaded an app from a large regional retailer. I tried to use it, and found that it had a horrible user interface. I even deleted it and then reinstalled it. Finally, I went back to the App Store to read the reviews. There were only 11…seven who completely dissed it, and four who said it was without doubt the best thing since the invention of the iPhone.

Yeah, I can spot an employee a mile away.

It just means that we consumers now have an even bigger responsibility. Being informed means more than just reading one set of reviews. No, we now have to embark on a fact-finding mission, gathering up reviews from a multitude of platforms and venues, performing a meta analysis of all these disparate voices.

And if you happen to think Hell has a special place reserved for Marketers, you may just be right. The reviews say it’s pretty warm, though.

Dr “You Got That Right” Gerlich


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