Be Transparent In Your Advertising and Promotion

I had recently been doing research for a client and found an organic Google listing on the Search Engine Results page from, it was the third listing.  Specifically I was looking for industry information on the heating and air conditioning business and was enticed by what I read “Plumbing and HVAC Industry Report.”  Knowing that Amazon was a trusted source I clicked.

When I got to the page to order this, I found it was a downloadable PDF and there was the cover page for me to view.  This looked like exactly what I wanted and I placed my order.

After the PDF downloaded, I opened the document, and on the cover page was some new information that hadn’t appeared previously on the order page.  It said, “Plumbing and HVAC Industry Report, Industry Breakdown: 1997 to 2001”

What?  How old is this information?  For anyone of you doing any kind of marketing research, you know that information that is nine or more years old is basically worthless.    I had just spent $24.95 for information that was so ancient, it should have been free.

I did the natural thing, I immediately tried to contact Amazon to inform them that this was not what I wanted and not to charge my card.  What I was amazed about was that there really is no customer service to speak of. simply has a “Help” webpage of commonly asked questions.  Since this was a download, apparently I was unable to cancel the order.

My next step was to contact my credit card company to dispute the charge.  After investigating, they wrote and said that “no error was found” in the disputed transaction with Amazon Digital Services and that “the disputed transaction has been credited to your account and absorbed as a loss by the bank.”

Well, I’m not out any money but why in the world should my bank absorb this loss?  This was Amazon’s lack of advertising honesty.

My question is this: If I received this kind of service and lack of transparency in the small transaction I experienced with Amazon, why would I take a chance in buying a “Kindle?”  Frankly, Amazon needs all the help it can get competing with Apple’s IPad.

So, when you promote products or advertise services, whether online or in a store, be sure to be transparent and tell the whole truth.  Otherwise you can end up reading blogs like this that have a tendency to spread very quickly and the old brand takes a big hit.

Have you had any experiences like this?  Let me know.



The CMO Outsource

Do You Mean It When You Ask?

Windup robot

My wife and I were talking the other evening about an interesting customer service idiosyncrasy we’ve both noticed at our local grocery store.  When we are finished shopping and we go to checkout, regardless of which cashier is helping us, they universally begin with the question, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”   Happens every time without fail.  It’s a great thought, however we have realized that these employees are simply reciting a question they were ordered to ask.  There is no genuine feeling behind it, it’s simply something they’ve been told to do, much as a computer that has been programmed to auto-respond.

We’ve even had some fun with this.  After the question and contrary I believe to most responses, I answer, “No.”  At least half the time, the cashier proceeds as if nothing had happened.  The other times I get this incredulous look and the witty riposte of , “What, oh, well, uh, I, don’t, uh, well, uh, hmmm.”  (Does not compute!)

I truly believe that the intent behind this effort is to provide excellent customer service, to show the caring side of the grocery store, and to make me feel welcomed.  Unfortunately, when it is not a genuine concern, and in this case it is apparent, then it fails in its intention.

Do you have customer service contact employees that are just going through the motions, that are just reciting lines out of a manual like an automaton?  Is the culture of your company such that this type of behavior is rewarded?  If so then your company’s brand is also reflecting this lack of authenticity, a lack of genuine caring for your customer.  It may take time, but it will affect your ability to grow and achieve your sales goals.

In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin-Are You Indispensable? he speaks of company cultures that encourage and reward behavior that simulates an assembly line, where employees are expected to do exactly as the manual dictates and not to have any original thought.  The problem, as he states, is that once this behavior is engrained, it is difficult to break away from.  Just as employees who act as robots are inexpensive and easy to replace, so your customers will also find other sources for what you do or sell.

So, do you mean it when you ask?

I would love to know your thoughts.


The CMO Outsource