A few months ago,an interactive marketing agency with offices in LA and NYC asked us if we could do some “word of mouth” (WOM) marketing for one of their clients.
They wanted to hire our team to “post about the product to message boards and social networks.” Fake promotion. Also known as Astroturfing. The practice I'm referring to here is fake product reviews, comments by people hiding their identity while being paid to comment, or fake “customer” dialogues. It's dirty. So much so that this behavior is now illegal in the EU.
We declined to do the campaign, partly because the product sucked, but mostly because we think lying is a bad idea. Pretending to be someone you are not is not cool.
As you may know, a lot of brands and PR firms engage in this practice. For example, Home Depot recently seems to have done some remodeling on their product reviews. Big brands make big mistakes. Even Coke stumbled.
Are you a marketer thinking about doing some Astroturfing? Go surfing. You'll feel better. Besides, wouldn't your time be better spent building relationships with real customers? You could even talk to them. Maybe consider working with brands that matter to you? Then, when time comes, you don't have to fake it. You can tell the truth. That's organic marketing.
There are countless examples of this nonsense hurting brands. You got some you want to share?