Decoy Effect

The Decoy Effect-How Digital Marketing Agencies Get You to Buy

If you are reading this article, then I must say you have been “clickbaited”. Do not worry. You won’t get crazy popups telling you that your computer is under threat. This article is meant to provide some brutally honest insights into the world of digital marketing.


Services being sold as a commodity

 Search the following on Google:

“SEO packages”

“SMM packages”

You will notice there are certain companies willing to offer you the services mentioned above for a fixed price and a so-called guarantee. Along with that, the most creative companies present offerings in creative ways most consumers are completely unaware of. Consider the following examples:

This is known as the decoy effect used by all large companies, which you have experienced if you purchased popcorn at the movies. It is extremely disappointing to see that digital marketing services are being sold in this manner. Packages being created for SEO – 5 words, 10 word, 15 words. Similarly, for Social Media Marketing, packages have been created for the number of posts and networks and so on.


There are a couple of interesting assumptions being made by such service providers –

  • All businesses are alike
  • Search Engines are stupid
  • Reusing a copied campaign across all businesses


Let us study the subtle intricacies of each service to find out if these companies are correct in selling them in this format.



Let us consider a very basic example, where you are the owner of a new building. You have built this high-rise building consisting of beautiful apartments, used good quality material and followed the protocol (on page SEO). As you are completely overwhelmed with your building business you bring sales reps on board to help you sell off the properties by spreading the word, holding discussions with the right people, being at the right place at the right time, being the face of your company, and maintaining your company’s tone (Off page SEO).

You can replace the building example with anything you want – education, electronics, consumer goods, etc.. Now assume that you are the not the only builder in that neighborhood. For obvious reasons your sales efforts would become more aggressive with longer sales cycles. There is a high probability that efforts required to sell an apartment would increase.

Similarly, for SEO, the effort required cannot be calculated without knowing the business. Your off-page SEO team is like your team of sales reps, but in the online world. SEO is the most underrated and abused form a digital marketing. There are very few real SEO experts because most of the work is done by interns or college kids in these companies. The effort is calculated using the quantity and not the quality.


Do blogs help in SEO?

Absolutely, when they are presenting a viewpoint written by the subject matter expert/s, rather than generic gibberish just to stuff your keywords in. The more unique value you bring to your content without compromising relevance, the greater the chances of users visiting your page to get some value. Again, it is very difficult to decipher how this service can be provided without understanding the business, value, and competition of the client. A blog written for a B2B company is very different from a blog written for a B2C company.


Our final take on SEO

This effort takes a long time. We ask our clients to be patient for at least 6 to 7 months before they start seeing the results. Make sure you are familiar with the team handling your SEO and everyone understands your business, and what you want to show to the world. Again, I would stress the fact that there are very few SEO experts who follow the right path and there are NO GUARANTEED results. Google keeps optimizing its algorithm to ensure quality over quantity so eventually ethical SEO wins.

Also Read: What is Digital Transformation, According to Experts


Social Media Marketing

Five posts a week per platform and three platforms will be chosen for $XXX per month. What do you need for this? Basic Photoshop skills, stock photography and a caption and we are ready to roll? At the end of it all social media marketing is just posting cool images (most of it is usually stock photography). Let me guide you through the process of social media marketing, what it entails, and the effort that it requires in this process.

First and foremost, understand the brand and the audience. The audience for Rolex is completely different from Walmart. As a social media expert, you need the right amount of creativity and common sense to understand the flavor (these are things which are very difficult to quantify). There has to be a mix of branding and sales, and a lot of A/B testing.

Ogilvy stated, “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving”. Hence the person handling your account should not be afraid to experiment. If you are being sold SMM as a package with a predefined price, then the chances of old templates, graphics, posts, stale ideas/campaigns being re-used are pretty much GUARANTEED. There are multiple resources necessary to do this job. A creative director/manager, account manager, graphics team, copywriter/s. It is clearly not a one-person job.


Our final take on SMM

Seek alignment with the team you are looking to work with. Every post, caption, graphic has to be in sync with your vision. Never outsource SMM work to another country (i.e. the one giving you the cheapest pricing, but not where your customers are).

Cultures are different, festivals are different, jokes are different (therefore we have a separate team for India and the US). You do not want to end up red-faced in front of your audience because someone on your social media team shared a joke in an ad that is unacceptable in your culture.

From a creative standpoint, ensure the team you are working with understands the concept of relatability, produces fresh content, and has discipline. Social Media Marketing can work for both B2C and B2B, but each approach is very different.


Read Next: How Technology is Changing Online Advertising

Rishi Rais