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All is fair in marketing. Or is it?

We all have to eat. Many of us have mortgages, car payments, college tuitions, and other expenses to pay in order to survive. We should never apologize for making a dollar; and personally, I am very open about my need to be profitable to my clients—they get it.  But what about exaggeration in your marketing efforts? Is there such a thing as too much? I think there is.

On Sunday, I was groggily watching the Today Show on NBC when a commercial for a travel agency aired claiming to be the “Official Agency for the Cruise Industry.” I thought I was either hearing things—or perhaps missed a memo. The commercial ran again—and again, and again, and again. And sure enough, I was correct, this agency was claiming to be THE official agency of the cruise industry.

Well, after a quick Google search, I discovered their website and there was their tagline — “Official Agency for the Cruise Industry.”  After scratching my head a minute or two I thought about CLIA.  Maybe I was also the “Official Agency of the Cruise Industry” too.  No such luck. My certificate says that my agency is an “Official Agency Member of Cruise Lines International Association and the Cruise Industry.” It seems they may have left out a few words in their tag line.  Horribly inaccurate? No. Exaggerated? For sure. Right? Well, let’s discuss that in the comments!

I will never begrudge anyone his or her own successes. And by all appearances this agency is indeed very successful with a large staff and a four-story office building for a headquarters. But is their claim of being the “Official Agency for the Cruise Industry” a bit of a marketing stretch? TRO has produced several marketing articles in our 365 Guide and one of the common themes is to be honest with your clients. The federal government requires transparent pricing for airlines, the cruise lines and resorts are all cracking down on rebating in the name of transparency.

I debated writing this column. I did not want it to come across as “sour grapes” or jealousy. The truth is I sell very few cruises. But this exaggeration bothered me.  To an agency competing with this agency, they are the underdog. Very few people will do the investigation necessary to verify the claims put forth in advertising. If it was on television and the Internet—it must be true. Even looking at their building (on their site) one might get the impression that they were actually a direct selling arm for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity as their logos flank the agency’s name on their sign.

Is all fair in marketing? What are your thoughts? Fair? Unfair?  Please leave a comment.

  4 thoughts on “All is fair in marketing. Or is it?

  1. Laura says:

    There’s an agency here in town that puts giant round stickers on people at bridal shows stating they’re “The #1 honeymoon agency in Columbus!”. Not sure how they’ve determined this. But, people will say or do anything to make a sale.

  2. John Frenaye says:

    You know, in that case Laura, I suspect humor might work. Big sticker with an asterisk and on the bottom “*as voted by our employees”

    But yes, it is similar. I recall when Sandals refused to play with the Apple (and other) ratings and Butch wanted to create his own Caribbean Michelin Guide to resorts—guess who was number 1?

  3. There is so much bombast and erroneous claims in advertising that the public has become blase about claims so this one will probably rebound to these peoples’ detriment.

  4. I’d be curious to know CLIA’s thoughts on this. And I’m 99% sure I know what agency you are referring to, but ironically there’s a tour company that makes the same claim on their “about us” page.

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