Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Pitch: How not to gain consumer trust

In times like these when gaining the trust of the consumer is so vitally important for brands, the last thing they want to do is get caught out for deceptive marketing…twice.

A Spanish tourism board has taken two shots to its integrity this year alone, both for publishing photographs of other countries to promote their tourist destinations.

The Costa Brava Tourism Board recently used a photo of a man and young boy standing hand-in-hand on a beach to promote a gastronomical fair on Spain’s north-east coast. The only problem was that the shot was of a beach halfway around the world – in Perth, Australia.

When the tourism board was caught out, they admitted to their mistake but maintained they were unaware the photo was actually of City Beach in Western Australia.

To make matters worse, it was the second slip-up from the tourism board after just last month they withdrew an ad campaign which featured a photo of the Bahamas to promote the Girona province as a holiday destination

The Getty Images shot was also digitally altered to dull the sand towards a greyer shade typical of the Costa Brava coastline.

The tourism board director claimed photos of sufficient quality could not be found and that it was never their intention to cheat consumers in any way. A spokesperson also defended the two fake photographs as isolated incidents.

But surely consumers have a right to feel aggrieved if they travel to Costa Brava only to find it’s nothing like what’s promised in the photographs?

What the photos have done is throw a veil of doubt over the brand’s integrity – a perfect example of how deceptive marketing can badly hurt a brand’s image. It will certainly be interesting to see what effect the bad news stories have on the tourism industry in Costa Brava.

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