4 disastrous ways to push your Startup through lies

June 20, 2016
3 min read

There was this popular ad on TVs and billboards. The ad introduced a croissant brand into the one of the biggest emerging markets in Africa, Nigeria. In fact, the feeling was great, the visuals were powerful and compelling. To crown it all, a popular celebrity was used to personify the brand. If there were a thousand and one consumers craving for the product, I was one of them but for several weeks, I couldn’t lay my hands on it until on a very tiring day while returning home from work. The adrenaline rush to devour the croissant was unimaginable but hey, the traffic law says you shouldn’t eat while driving!


The whole excitement turned into dissonance even before consumption. The product size could not measure up to the size portrayed by the advertisement. I felt cheated, embarrassed and discomfited for wasting my hard-earned money on a product that could not deliver its promise. Since there was no value for money, repeat purchase was the last thing on my mind and never would I allow my close associates to make the same mistake.

Things like these are common in most emerging markets and because the consumer laws are rather weak in these markets, advertisers sometime escape the necessary regulatory scrutiny and whack.


Be that as it may, below are four ways I think your startup can unsuccessfully lie to its market:

Making promises you can’t fulfill

Every startup should be reminded that a brand is a promise to the consumer to deliver a particular desired experience most of the time. It should be known that consumers offer their trust and loyalty with the implicit understanding that your brand will behave in certain satisfying ways through product/service performance and through appropriate pricing, promotion, and distribution programs. In the croissant story earlier told, do you think I felt cheated because the product was too small? Not at all. I felt embittered because the advertiser had failed in its promise to meet my expectations as conveyed in the billboard and television.

Believing advertisement would do the magic

Disturbingly, many well-funded startups often subscribe to advertising to blatantly make implicit promises they would never keep. When the product or service doesn’t match up to the advertised promise, isn’t that like cheating, or at some level, stealing from people’s hopes? Well, your ever wise customers would soon realise this, jettison your brand and pitch their tent with your competition who is real and truthful.

A marketing professional once said that advertising is powerful but ads are not what the consumer is buying. You can spend one billion dollars on ad, if the product lacks merit, you would not sell. In fact, your ad begins to irritate. The value of an ad is based on the fact that the product is right. There is a coinage in marketing, which underscores this, that the best way to kill a bad product is to advertise it.

Bad Positioning

More importantly, in our Social Media crazed world, venting out broken promises made to consumers has instant ramifications to the credibility and trajectory of your startup’s perceived value. It is true that the goal of any brand positioning exercise is to develop a brand promise that is unique, compelling and believable. Any successful brand positioning project must evaluate all potential brand promises against these three criteria – unique, compelling and believable. The winning promise must deliver against all three criteria or it won’t work.

Suggested ReadHow Nigerian Startups can effectively use TV and Newspaper Ads to grow fast

Thinking that lies would engender profitability

It’s wrong to assume that lies would ensure profitability. In fact, a lie told will only stimulate trial but never engender repeat purchase that can guarantee sustainable profitability. Most times, a betrayed consumer will make sure others around him never fall victim. Tell the truth and don’t shoot yourself in the leg. Don’t over promise and under deliver. Lies shouldn’t be ‘sold’ to push your startup.

I’m sure you’re still interested in the croissant story I shared with you at the beginning of this article. Well, I’m pleased to inform you that its makers only survived for two years. The croissant is abysmally dead, never to be resurrected.

Is your startup positioned to lie? If yes, please have a rethink!

Photo Credit: mikecogh via Compfight cc

I'm passionate about the availability, accessibility & affordability of quality education in Africa. Founder, Edusko.com
I'm passionate about the availability, accessibility & affordability of quality education in Africa. Founder, Edusko.com
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I'm passionate about the availability, accessibility & affordability of quality education in Africa. Founder, Edusko.com

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