Marketing Smells

Sitting at home, minding my own business, I get interrupted by the landline ringing. I pick up the phone, hear some office background noise and the line goes dead. Shortly after that the phone rings again. I answer. This time friendly Fiona from Interwave is telling me about a prize draw I’ve qualified for by entering at one of the many shopping centres they ran the promotion at. Wow, cool!  But hold on a minute, I don’t enter competitions.

“Even if you don’t win the grand prize (a Chery QQ) you’re guaranteed to win another” she continued. (Apparently there are also quad bikes, ice makers and getaways up for grabs) So I asked her if there would be a sales pitch for timeshare at the event. Instead of an answer, she gave me a scripted line, something along the lines of “This is a marketing event, with Interwave as the sole sponsor”. Um, ok.

I also had to bring my partner because “they have to sign as a witness” when I sign up for the event.

She then wanted my cell phone number so someone called Anna could phone me the next day with detailed directions. Um, no.

At this point my nose was twitching furiously because of what I’ll call the “Marketing smell” that pervaded the entire interaction:

In business, marketing smell is any symptom in the marketing campaign of a business that possibly indicates a deeper problem.

"Gas Mask", Wikimedia Commons

"Gas Mask", Wikimedia Commons

Marketing smell is based on a term used by programmers called “Code smell“:

In computer programming, code smell is any symptom in the source code of a program that possibly indicates a deeper problem. – Wikipedia

Just as with code smell, a lot if is up to interpretation and may not be a sign of a deeper issue after all. Bearing that in mind, I still think there are some pretty hefty odours wafting from Interwaves marketing practices that indicate this company has some deep rooted problems and I shouldn’t consider dealing with them any further:


“You entered a competition…”. I don’t enter competitions. You bought my details and are now lying about the source of the information. This is more of a stench than a smell.

“You’re partner has to come with to witness your sign up”. No, that’s to get all decision makers present at the sales pitch.

If you lie to me before I’m your customer, what will you do after you have my attention or money? There is no way you can build a long term relationship or any type of positive perception by lying to me.

Lying 2.0 – Avoidance

When asked directly if I’d receive a sales pitch for timeshare, they wouldn’t answer the question, but rather rattled off some scripted line that completely avoided answering the question.

Passing on costs to their marks

Call costs are expensive, so they call your number and then hang up in the hopes you’ll call them back. Hey presto, you’re paying for them to market to you! Imagine how they’ll squeeze you once they’ve got you hooked on a long term timeshare plan.


Buying my details means you do not have permission to talk to me. Attempting to deceive me means you’re not interested in earning that permission, nor entering into a mutually beneficial relationship. Their approach is the opposite of permission marketing where:

It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention. – Seth Godin

Why not give Seth a chance?

The smells emanating from the brand of marketing used here are pretty strong, leading me to assume the business isn’t in a good way. I haven’t heard of a company with a great product that needed to lure potential customers in by lying to them.

Interwave, if you have to deceive people into hearing your sales pitch:

  • Maybe you have a bad product and it’s time you considered not selling the product?
  • If it’s simply a perception problem (with timeshare) you are not going to fix that by engaging in unethical marketing practice. You’ll just compound the problem. Take the long term view and change the perception. Educate people about the benefits of timeshare.
  • If there’s nothing wrong with the product, the only explanation left is you’ve made a mistake in your choice of marketing strategy. If so, bite the bullet and change the way you do things (Hint: Step 1 is don’t lie to leads). After all, anything new you try has to be a step up from here.

The above is a pretty good example of what constitutes a Marketing smell. What are some other “Marketing smells” you’ve come across?

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4 Responses to Marketing Smells

  1. Interesting. I just got the identical call but when I said I could not bring my partner I was told this was a “couples event”. Googled ‘Interwave’ to see if there was anything online about it.

    I knew from the start it was a scam. I’ve been down this road and 15 years ago as a naive 20-something-year-old even bought some timeshare. Cost me a fortune over the years and a decade to escape the trap.

    Fun to toy with the guy though:

    “Sir, do you have your competition entry number? It starts with ‘S’.”

    “Yes I do.”

    Silence… He of course knows very well I don’t have this number. He then reminds me its ‘ST02’. Pretty short reference number for a competition that was held “at restaurants, shopping centres and other venues”.


    • Michael says:

      Your reference number wasn’t STFU was it?

      In a way I can understand the operators going along with the scam, putting bread on the table etc. What I have a real problem with are the business owners. Ethical business practices seem foreign to them.

      I’d love to hear about your experience with timeshare.

  2. Meggyn Visser says:

    Just had the exact same thing. When the guy calls he tells me I have to bring my partner it is a couples only event and apparently was in the “terms and conditions” of the competition rules…huh!? Not to mention it is a Friday afternoon, do they think people don’t work? and just to prove it’s real they give me the competition hotline – What a joke, I can’t wait for the Consumer Protection Act to come out, I’m going to nail these guys! there is nothing I detest more than telemarketers especially ones who blantantly lie!

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