Artistic Licence, or Outright Lies?
A friend of mine, Davey, was looking to buy a new (to him) car and asked if I'd go along for the ride. No problem, I have a little background with the motor industry and I'm always intrigued with the sales spiel.
So we roll up and start looking around the used car section of a large dealership. This place was very flash and the cars looked extremely well looked after - all good so far. Within a few minutes a guy came up to us and asked if he could help - top marks, although it wasn't long before the bull began to flow. But, as any good salesman should be, Steve, as he now introduced himself, was friendly enough and said his mates called him "Steveo".
That's nice Steve.
"Yes sir, this particular car was owned by the manufacturer itself for demonstrations only. If anything, it's been over-serviced."
Here we go, I thought, it's been ramped around a race track by technicians during dealer training, but he continued with ever growing confidence.
"Yes, they always go that bit further with their own vehicles, little extras you don't get on the normal cars, you know the sort of thing?"
Is he telling us? Asking us? Hoping we'll be baffled by the quick succession of random sales spiel? Whatever, there was no stopping him now.
"The EGR system on this model actually reduces your fuel consumption, saving you a fortune at the pumps!" oh he was really going for it now, but this was beginning to annoy me, so it was time to butt in.
"Surely the purpose of the EGR system is to reduce Nitrogen Oxide gases, produced in the engine, by recirculating exhaust gases which in turn lowers combustion temperature simply as a means of meeting emissions laws?"
He stalled. He was caught out and he didn't like it. But Steve had no right to make absurd claims to try and make a sale. Amazingly, he remembered a phone call he had to make and retreated to the safety of the showroom. I wasn't really that bothered with the sales talk because I expected it, but why should we, as customers, have to put up with blatant lies?
What should the copywriter do?
We owe it to the customer to explain the facts fairly and honestly. If the copy is written properly, the genuine benefits will sell the product without resorting to lies - or fraud. If you can't think of one benefit for a product, then either the product is seriously flawed (every product must have a benefit or I doubt it would have been manufactured in the first place), or you're simply not trying hard enough.
If you fabricate lies to sell something, just like Steve did, you'll eventually get caught out. It might take a while, and you might think that the sales you make in the meantime more than make up for it, but when you do, it'll have a serious effect on any future sales.
Davey didn't buy the car, and he was put off ever going to that dealership again. He's also talked about it with friends who, in turn, talk to their friends. It's all too easy to ruin a good reputation, but extremely difficult to build it back up. I'm sure the dealer principal would agree, and won't be over the moon if he or she ever gets to hear about it.