When the Trojans saw the huge wooden horse, they perceived it as a gift of some value. Is Trojan horse unethical or genius? Let us delve into this marketing tactic of using a ‘gift’ as a way to get to your prospect’s wallet.
How exactly does the Trojan Horse apply to marketing?
I will look at this from the perspective of my industry, skincare. Businesses survive and thrive on repeat business. Marketers have to find a way to get customers coming back and to get new customers coming in. Everyone loves a bargain, and everyone loves to feel as if they are receiving something of perceived value for free.
In my industry, I observe the main sales tactics used are promotions offering a free gift with purchase. For example: “Receive this free travel sized collection for all orders over $250 dollars. A $100-dollar value customized to suit your skincare needs”. This promotional method is used to get through to the customers who may not have otherwise thought of purchasing at that point in time. The perceived value of this free gift is not only the free travel sized collection they’ll receive but also the free consultation which ensures that those travel-sized items are suited to their specific skincare needs.
Another example of Trojan horse marketing is stealth advertising. For example, a popular figure such as Kylie Jenner may have been paid to cunningly position your brand in a social media post thus giving customers the impression that she uses this product. This increases the perceived value of the product as well as the demand. In this example, our giant wooden horse would be Kylie, the customers would be Troy, and the company would be the Archaean soldiers ready to conquer Troy.
Is this practice Unethical or Ingenious?
We would first have to look at the definition of the word unethical. The prefix un- means “not,” so something or someone who’s unethical is literally “not ethical.” In other words, that someone is lacking principles or morals. Because being unethical involves going against social or professional expectations of what’s right, it’s a word that’s often used to describe bad behavior or immoral conduct.
Social and professional expectations of what is right and what is wrong are just that, expectations, it is subjective. The argument brought forward by most persons is that it is unethical because marketing needs to encourage a mutual exchange with a benefit taking place from either side of consumer or business. However, how does one value the customer’s perceived benefit? At the end of the day, customers are given a choice. Referring back to the buyer decision-making process, customers go through Information search and alternative evaluation at the Need/ Desire Formulation phase, Trojan Horse marketing, in my opinion, is not unethical as customers are given the opportunity to make a choice based on their own perceived value. If a customer regards a celebrity such as Kylie Jenner so highly that they decide to purchase a product based on her conspicuous brand placement then that is a choice made entirely by the consumer based on their personal perceived value. Similarly, if a customer values a free gift and consultation so much that they would purchase $250 worth of products to receive it then that is also subjective and a matter of perceived value.
Trojan horse marketing may come across as unethical to some and may even be considered coercion, however, I believe it is an ingenious tactic used by companies to not only create awareness for their brand and products but also encourage new and repeat business. Ethics and morality are subjective, and all consumers are given the choice to purchase, the choice is made based on perceived value.