This is easily one of the smartest on line marketing tactics I’ve seen in a long time: Someone has created this site, a fake “TV News” site, with a lead story purporting to expose the truth about Acai Berry diets.
The story starts out like any belligerent, TV news “we’re on your side!” type of consumer report. But then the “reporter” goes on the diet to see for herself if it works. And guess what? It does! For joy! Then the story ends with instructions about how you too can get a free sample of this wonder product, where this person lost 26 pounds in four weeks.
But look at the site a little bit closer. The header of the page has a typical local news look, with two intrepid reporters posing out, and what looks like at first glance, “Channel 5 News,” indicating some local TV affiliate. This was really smartly done, because the banner actually says, “Channel Health 5 News,” or rather, “Health 5 News.”
Well what the hell is that?
It’s an attempt to make you think this is a real news outlet, while they still let you know this is only about “health” – or their loose interpretation of it. Then they have a picture of their “journalist,” a screen cap of some young woman from a TV broadcast who doesn’t look like she has an extra 26 pounds to lose anyway.
They even went so far as to design in a toolbar to other locations on their supposed TV news channel site – with all of the links going to the front page of NewsVine.com! I’m in awe of such brilliance, frankly – most people wouldn’t bother to navigate around a site like this, and the designer of this page knew that. So the toolbar isn’t there to get you to anything in particular, it’s just there to further facilitate this fantasy.
I know I sound bitter – mostly because this is the kind of marketing that gives marketing a bad name: Lying to people in such a way that the advertiser can always say, “we didn’t lie to anyone – where do we ever say this is from an actual news organization?” In truth, I’m rather impressed. They managed to ape the look of a local news site so well, you wouldn’t know it was a fraud unless you were particularly skeptical. Skeptical people aren’t customers for a weight loss product that relies on berries to loose 26 pounds in four weeks. Desperate people need to loose 26 pounds in four weeks, and if some pseudo-news organization says this will, then it must.
The larger story here is that we trust these types of sites and their recommendations so well, the people out to make a dollar off of us have taken to using that information against us. Whomever crafted this campaign is definitely not stupid – they know what we are willing to read through and believe. If this same text had been used on a standard landing page, no one would have read past the first paragraph.
Instead, this starts out with the supposition that they are against this product’s claims. Well, sort of – they actually say they will test the product from one company in particular, which they say is the “most credible and trustworthy suppliers on the market.” That company, of course, is the one sponsoring this misleading piece of online advertising.
See how they did that? They mention the company, but still make it sound halfway snarky, like none of the other companies could be trusted more than this. Because we presume they’ll be trashing a company that sells snake oil, we read on. When we get to the conclusion, if we’re not paying too much attention, we take in the real pitch (there’s a “special offer,”) and we become customers.
Is it sneaky and underhanded? You betcha! But I’m willing to bet the conversion rate on this article is also through the roof. I found it as what looked like a supplemental news link on someone else’s blog. I now know that wasn’t a news feed I clicked on, but a paid placement also designed to make me think I was getting an unbiased news report.
In short, if you want to fool people into buying your product, and you can’t get the media to tell the public how great you are, fake it. We no longer teach skepticism to our children, so it should be easy pickings for you.