When there are numerous people who want to "stand out" within a company (and show that they can help the brand perform) they tend to push for the ideas that generate more sales -- no matter what the cost. More revenue (and more anything, for that matter) often creates a culture where the shady tactic is not only permitted, but admired. All you have to do is look at the financial industry -- it is a breeding ground of the most shallow and narcissistic of human traits. Combine individual arrogance and hubris with companies beholden to venture capitalists, investors, or their public owners -- rather than the ideals of their founders -- and the combined effect is that there are fewer and fewer people who are willing to fight for brand integrity. It seems that courtesy and respect for customers is an outmoded concept in a world where statistics and data analytics rule the day.
Unfortunately, what the statistics and data analysis often encourage are behaviors that seem uncivilized. Many companies have reduced their customers to a cell on a spreadsheet, and this is the result: From a numbers only standpoint, shady brand tactics (tactics devoid of feeling, emotion, and long-term brand health) work. An extra retained user here, and extra margin on profit there, ultimately means more money.
I see it, because I have been in the meetings. I have in the past even come up with some of these ideas. There are some brand folks who sit around and scheme and plot for ways to eke out that extra little sliver of a percentage from a sale. They concoct ideas to "fool" consumers into making purchases by manipulating them and subverting their free will. For many marketers, free will may as well be poison. Unfortunately, this behavior is often rewarded in our culture. I wish it was not -- I wish I could stand on the top of my desk and hold a sign like Sally Field playing Norma Rae to protest this behavior and declare an all out strike on subversive strategic tactics that belittle the people they affect. I just do not admire many of these tactics, regardless as to whether they bolster the bottom line. Some things cannot be measured in a spreadsheet -- things like compassion, happiness, and how your customers feel about your brand. And it is those aspects that often translate to long-term brand health.
However, the sad truth is that there is a reason some brands use these tactics: They work. Here are some tactics that seem to go directly against what is in the best interest of the customer but in some way serve the brands that use them.