By Published On: August 30, 2019

There are a lot of great and successful marketing tactics used in the world today. Of course, there are some not-so-great ones, too. Even though the bad ones are in the minority, they often seem to be what people remember most, and deceptive marketing makes all marketers look bad.

To combat deceptive marketing and advertising practices, public backlash has forced new kinds of legislation designed to limit it. But in spite of those best efforts, questionable practices sometimes persist. Like one I recently noticed that made me think back to my days in retail.

Rarely do I ever download an app onto my phone. Not only because my phone is older, but because I just don’t see a need for most apps. That being said, there’s one app that has been particularly useful to me. The Target app has helped me save money and find products in unfamiliar places in the store. I’ve also ordered products directly from the app (unusual for me, too). But in spite of the benefits, I recently noticed what felt like a misleading—and in my opinion, deceptive—aspect of this app.

When shopping for a board game, the app showed me the price, as most apps and websites do. But the difference between this app and most others is that the price changed when I got close to the store. Apparently, the app uses geo-fencing to determine where your phone is. When a phone gets within a few hundred feet of a store, it’s possible that the price you see on your phone won’t be what you find inside. To me, this feels like a pretty deceptive way to draw people to a store. It’s also a great way to make customers angry and confused, which is why Target has updated their app to more accurately reflect the correct pricing. It would be even better for them to have their app automatically price-match at your specific Target store (like most competitors) to avoid confusion.

A tough challenge for us marketers is that we can all be judged by the questionable marketing practices of a few, even if their intent isn’t to deceive but it’s the end result. To fight back, it’s up to all of us to be authentic and honest about our brand interactions with our customers and prospects. If we each do our part and keep our ethical standards high and promote positive marketing practices, we can go a long way toward protecting the reputation of our industry as a whole.

About the Author: Tim Swenson

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