Net Gains: A Sucker Is Born Every Minute5 Mar, 2010 By: Brad Feldman Response
When I was a kid, my dad gave me a $20 bill to play three-card monte while on a vacation in New York. For those not familiar with the game, you are lured into a sense of false confidence that you can find the queen of hearts while three cards are being thrown around a table (a type of shell game). The con man always ends up taking your money. What is fascinating is that, though this scam has been around for at least 600 years, it never lacks finding a “sucker” to part with his money.
The Internet has no limit of conmen wishing to part you from your money and no lack of available suckers. In fact, Internet fraud keeps growing. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), released its 2008 Annual Report in March 2009, showing a 33-percent increase in online fraud over the previous year, costing more than $265 million.
Rogue affiliate marketers are only a small problem in comparison to Nigerian money spam, auction scams and credit card phishing. However, the growth in social network applications is again making it too easy for unscrupulous promoters to make quick money off of your brand.
But, if you want to build your company into a brand that stands for quality, innovation or customer service, then relinquishing “marketing” to affiliates only interested in finding the next sucker will provide short-term profits at the expense of long term success.
Rogue affiliates will not go away any more than three-card monte dealers. However, as of Dec. 1, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can now go more easily after affiliates. The FTC now requires full disclosure of financial relationships. For example, I can’t report to people that follow my hypothetical diet blog that I lost 30 pounds and six inches off my waist in one month using the Miracle Chocolate Wafer if I didn’t. If my readers click on the link to buy the Miracle Chocolate Wafer, and I get paid for each sale, I have to disclose this secret to my readers.
This is great news for affiliates that truly provide value to their audience and for marketers that want better control over their products and brands.
Take Back Your Brands, Marketers
Not unlike the creative you painstakingly create for TV, your online presence must properly engage, educate and generate demand. The Internet is not something to be outsourced to unrelated third parties trying to make a quick buck on whatever product is currently hot.
The question that will be answered during the next 18-24 months is what lessons marketers have learned by outsourcing their online business, and how will they use the new FTC guides to change the game and build products into brands that create a sustainable business.
DRTV marketers now have been given an opportunity for rebirth — a rethinking of the online space. In that spirit, I would like to offer the following open letter to marketers (written in the style of the rogue affiliates):
With the same skills that have made you incredibly successful selling products onTV, you can now make huge profits by educating consumers about your products online.
For only the cost of a little creativity, you can educate a lot of people on your product. In three easy steps you can use the Internet to connect with your audience in new ways.
- Take control of your own promotional channels. Television media buying agencies that you trust now have access to help make you money with online video, display advertising, social marketing and E-mail.
- Get creative. Give your agencies the task of coming up with creative that works to capture the attention and educate prospective consumers in online media.
- Eliminate relationships that don’t share your exact goals for success. At minimum, these goals should include: building demand, driving product awareness and developing brand recognition that drives sales through all available channels.
Act now and become a leader in online marketing, finding new ways to engage your prospective customers in order to sell more products and services than your competition. n