Friday, December 5, 2014

Deceptive Marketing in The Internet Age

Millions of people would like to sleep better.  The Internet provides a great opportunity to use deceptive marketing to tap into a potentially huge market opportunity.  The Clever Owl website is operated by HFM Marketing, which is owned by Somnapure Products, that provides the "natural" product that will help millions to sleep better.  Its rather strange to for a firm to do its marketing through a subsidiary that it owns, instead of using an internal marketing division,  but there are probably some legal advantages to this arrangement which also enhances the impression that HFM's website provides legitimate news. 

The Clever Owl website uses some interesting gimmicks to legitimize the Somnapure product.  Everyone is familiar with CVS, GNC and Walmart.  They are legitimate retail brands and the article claims that Somnapure's product selling great at CVS but it provides no data on sales at CVS.  There is a sidebar on the right of the page which provides links to the three retailers that are well known.  If you click on the link to any of the retailers you are not taken to their website. Instead you get a sales pitch on the product which claims that the product is scientifically proven, natural and made in America. The link to the popular retailers is only used to legitimize the product.  No scientific evidence is provided to back up the claims made about the product, but the appeal to a natural product made in America may overcome that minor difficulty.

One might think that the salesperson would conclude her pitch by sending them to one of the three popular retailers that can be found anywhere in America.  Instead she offers a free trial that is only available online.  What she doesn't tell the unfortunate person who would like to sleep better is that Somnapure will ship a months supply of the worthless product, and charge it to the credit card used to pay for the shipping and handling of the free trial, unless the recipient of the "free trail" cancels that part of the deal which is buried in the terms and conditions of the offer.  Somnacare is not interested in securing a satisfied customer who will benefit from its product and continue using it.  It is primarily interested in making a single sale for $70 to millions of customers duped by the free offer.

This is only one example of this new form of predatory marketing that use the "free offer" gimmick and the Internet to sell worthless products to our most vulnerable citizens. This is a link to Clever Owl's sponsored article on Yahoo selling another product that is supposed to enable men with enlarged prostates (which includes almost every male over 50) to sleep through the night.  The link to the free offer is set up so that it can be clicked before the terms and conditions are visible.

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