Clever Tactics or Marketing Scams?

Two things this week that are very clever ways to make sales, but leave a bad taste in the mouth of your potential customers.

Do you think these class as clever strategies, or marketing scams? In my mind, they’re not clever marketing and represent the seedy side of business.

1. A Phone Company Called Easy Talk Called…

They told me, “Just ringing to let you know your line rental will be reduced to £xx per month and all your evening calls will be free”. No indication it was anybody new, they made it sound like BT.

I was suspicious though, because BT have never called to tell me I’ll be paying less. So I asked them to clarify. I then discovered they’re trying to get me to switch to their service.

They didn’t identify themselves very clearly at all and they made it difficult for me to understand that they were a different company to my current supplier.

Verdict: Scam, they weren’t open and honest about wanting me to switch suppliers.

2. Chris Cardell Sent A Letter To My Friend Paul…

A few searches have hit my site on the topic of Chris Cardell marketing, including the phrase “Chris Cardell Scam”. This is because a few of my clients, by coincidence, have been members of his various clubs at some point before deciding to work with me.

Anyway, this week a friend got an envelope delivered in the post. Inside was a page apparently torn from a newspaper with a Post-It note stuck on.  The note written on it was along the lines of “Paul, This sounds right up your street, J”.

It looked hand-written (although on close inspection was clearly printed in a handwriting font). There was nothing at all to make you think that Cardell had sent it. In fact Paul really thought a friend had sent it (that’s the idea, of course).

It was selling membership of his monthly subscription club. The club is awkward to leave (I also get searches hit my site for “how to cancel chris cardell membership”) and so this letter is framing people to sign up for around £40/month of a membership they’ll have to research how to cancel.

I even spoke to somebody this week who personally had struggled to cancel membership and had lost £80, despite the guarantee of full refunds (Deborah Purple of IT services company Backupnet in London).

The page from paper was clearly an advert for Cardell, dressed up to look like an article. This article was never in a million years a bona-fide newspaper article.

If it had ever appeared in a paper it would have been as an advert. But here it was, presented as a torn page from the paper.

Talking to another marketing buddy, these are apparently called Tear-Sheets and are popular in America. They are normally a little more obviously adverts and don’t try to pass themselves off as legitimate newspaper copy.

Verdict: Mistake – This marketing tactic is just a bit too close to the knuckle for me – I love the idea of using the credibility of a newspaper article to help win trust from potential customers, but this was just a bit heavy-handed, which was a great pity.

Update: The Advertising Standards Authority have passed judgement on Cardell’s tactic too.  They found it was misleading and stated that

The ad must not appear again in its current form.

You don’t need to play it this way, Chris, because it damages your brand too much and it’s clearly upsetting people.


  1. Martin on December 15th, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    ohhhh, for years I’ve been wondering who the mysterious ‘J’ was who’d sent me this advert, and now I know! Hmmm yeah that is quite misleading! But, I gotta say, it worked; I did go to the website and I initially signed up for the deal of 30-days free access to the ‘inner circle’, not noticing that it was an automatic monthly renewal of £40. I wrote to cancel as soon as I noticed and got my money back via a Cheque. The next month I was charged again, and this time I insisted I get it refunded directly to my credit card and cancel the subscription. They did both this time thank fully.

    But I decided to continue receiving his emails because they are useful and do give some helpful ideas of things that’s I’d never thought of. Just last month I did decide to buy a set of his DVDs and they are good – they certainly get the brain thinking about new marketing methods, and more than anything, are really helpful as a motivator. His tactics are sometimes a bit hard-sell, but in these economic times that’s what you need, and he leads by example I suppose.

  2. Lee on December 16th, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Hi Martin,

    I agree with you entirely about how Chris Cardell leads by example. There’s nobody more prolific in terms of marketing their products than Cardell Media and that’s impressive. I just thought it a pity that he pushed it one step too far here. I think the idea of using tear-sheets (that’s what they call this type of advertising in America) was brilliant and I’m confident it produced huge results for him. But I do wonder just how many people felt suprised/annoyed when they found they’d been charged the next month.

    He does share some useful tips and it’s clear from his own success that he knows how to do it. I just think he went too far on this one.



  3. Shane mitchell on June 28th, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Yep, I fell for it too. I was charged for the next month. I have contacted the company and said I want my money back. I then called them later in the day and said that no one has returned my call, I Shared that this needs to be taken seriously. He went more than too far with this, he picked the wrong person to upset!

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