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Manipulative Marketing Corner: "Try it Free"

Manipulative Marketing Corner: "Try it Free"

December 21, 2009

Previous dilemma

The dirty little secret of the 'Fast Reply Bonus'

This is a common tactic on TV and in Internet promotions in which the first customers to respond in the next 5 days get a special bonus.

In direct mail it gets tricky because there's no way to know when someone received the offer and there's no deadline.

The dirty little secret is that EVERYONE who replies gets the additional bonuses because there's no way to determine how long it took them to repond. Is that deceptive or creative?


My response: It's creative but you have to end the deadline at some point. Otherwise it's deceptive.

If there is no real deadline then it's a lie. Eventually, your prospects and customers will realize that you're not someone who means what he or she says. You have to find a time period that's reasonable for people to respond and then end the bonus offer.

Creative or Deceptive? You decide.

The desire to increase sales often leads us into some very gray areas where there doesn't always seem to be a clear right or wrong answer. I tackle a dilemma each month and then I want to hear what you would do. Send your comments to me at JonGoldman@BrandLauncher.com. Then, next month I will give you my take on whether it was creative or deceptive.

This month's dilemma...

Try it FREE, but we'll still need your credit card

This is one you see all the time. Sign up for a free trial or download a free software program.

This offer has all the ingredients of a great campaign: a great promise, scarcity (only available to premium members!), asking for a small first step.

But what about the free two day trial membership, and the price buried in the small print? I'm sure this approach leads to a healthy conversion rate. But does it also lead to a lot of angry customers? What do you think? Is it brilliant marketing ' or manipulative?