Bait-and-switch marketing is not considered legal in most places. While we often think of it in terms of retails sales and false advertising – lure someone in with certain price even though the product is out of stock or unavailable just so you can try to sell something else that carries a bigger price tag – the blurred boundaries of “products” in the internet age has opened the door for a whole new type of false advertising.
For a very simple example, CNN recently reported that “Facebook is making a phone.” Then, at the end of the first paragraph we read that “The social-networking behemoth may be making a phone.” The headline claims a truth, the copy indicates a rumor.
Here’s another. Social media agency Simply Zesty blogged that “Hotel Makes Over $1 Million In 24 Hours Using Facebook Offers.” The truth, however, is that the hotel hadn’t made a single cent and, once the math was done, couldn’t make $1,000,000 even if every room was booked until the offer expired.
The problem here is that blog titles are not simply titles, they are marketing. Like the headline on a pay-per-click ad, this is how websites, who make money off of traffic, get more traffic. The more sensational the headline, the more people will click.
Journalists and editors in the digital age are learning that, even with a boring article, a flashy title can be the difference between 100 unexcited readers or 100,000 viral visitors.
So, bait-and-switch is used to draw the visitor in with one expectation only to discover (or not even notice if the article is cleverly worded) that the advertisement (title) and the product they received (article) didn’t match.
Keep your eyes open and you’ll probably see a couple before the day is out.