Have you ever felt tricked, swindled, lied to or cheated by a brand? The marketing tactics that your business uses to attract, engage and convert prospects into paying customers reflect your brand values, and if those values are shady and underhanded, buyers will know and will likely choose to buy from businesses they do build a trusting relationship.

 

Getting a Whole Lot Less Than What I Expected

This story begins a couple of weeks ago when I was heading to Arkansas on a business trip. I had an early flight and got to the airport well ahead of schedule, leaving plenty of time to grab a bite of breakfast before the plane left. The spot I stopped at used iPad’s for ordering and a quick browse through the menu quickly landed me on an order of home fries and a coffee. The home fries looked like a tasty blend of seasoned potatoes, spring onions and diced red pepper.

When my order arrived, let’s just there was some serious lunch bag letdown:

 

Instead of getting anything remotely close to what was shown on the digital menu, what arrived was a flat, unflattering and much less appetizing version. And the classy plastic container of ketchup didn’t do much to help justify the airport-only price tag.

 

That Time I Was McLied To

This origins of this post actually date back a couple of years.

Long story short: I was grabbing a tea in a McDonalds and a bubbly young staff member seemed very keen about me filling in an online survey rating my experience in her location. For my troubles, I’d be given a coupon for a free medium fry and medium drink:

 

More interested in supporting her enthusiasm than free McDonalds food, I went to the survey website when I returned to my desk and followed through a short list of questions, giving top marks in all categories.

But that “free” medium fry and medium drink? Well, it seems like McDonalds pulled a McQuick one:

 

That “free” fries and drink would have cost me a large sandwich purchase. That’s not free to me. And unfortunately, I didn’t realize what the gig was until it was too late – I was already done the survey and gave them the feedback they were looking for by time they revealed the bait-and-switch.

My biggest problem with all of this is not the fact that I would have had to pay for a sandwich to get an accompanying fries and drink at no extra cost, but that McDonalds set the expectation that they were going to give me that fries and drink in exchange for my time filling out a survey. I filled out the survey as per our initial agreement, but when it came time for them to hold up their end of the agreement, they changed the game.

I expected better of McDonalds. Much better.

 

What Do Your Marketing Tactics Say About Your Brand?

That experience at the airport and more so with McDonald’s made me think about the importance of brand integrity. If McDonald’s is capable of pulling this type of stunt on me and other people that take their surveys, what else are they capable of? When I see billboards advertising McDonald’s promotions, or their commercials on TV, do I take them for what they’re promoting, or are they setting up another scheme that promises one thing and delivers something different?

When you’re out there promoting your business, you’re setting expectations for what prospective customers can expect if they engage with you, and not only in the initial pre-sales stage, but throughout their entire relationship with your organization. If the success of your brand relies on shady schemes and marketing tactics then maybe the above might not be so offensive. But for most businesses, brand integrity and building a trusting relationship with customers is more important, and customers know when you’re trying to pull a fast one on them.

 

TL;DR

Sitting at an airport, I ordered something tasty looking from a menu and what was served was significantly less appealing. A couple of years earlier, I took McDonald’s up on an offer of free fries and drink if I filled out an online survey, but after I completed the survey, they changed the game to require me to buy a sandwich to get that “free” fries and drink.

Brand integrity and trust are important when trying to attract, engage and convert prospects into paying customers. If potential buyers don’t trust you, they’re probably not going to buy from you.