The Decoy Effect: How Digital Marketing Agencies Get You To Buy Their Costly Services

The Decoy Effect: How Digital Marketing Agencies Get You To Buy Their Costly Services

If you have reached this article then I must tell you, that you have been “click baited”. Do not worry, you will not be getting 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 would notice that there would be certain companies that would be willing to offer you the services mentioned above for a fixed price and a so-called guarantee. Along with that, the most creative these companies have been, is along the lines of the decoy effect. Consider the following decoy effect examples:

Decoy Effect Example - How Marketers Trick You Into Spending More Money

Decoy Effect Example


This is something known as the decoy effect used by all bigger companies, which even you would have experienced had you purchased a popcorn at the movies.

It is extremely disappointing to see that digital marketing services are being sold in such kind of a manner. Packages being created for SEO – 5 words, 10 words, 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 go through the subtle intricacies of each service to find out if these companies are correct in selling them in this format. The format would be such that we would be explaining what each service means and then presenting our point.





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 the tone of your company (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, there are multiple others and each trying to sell something similar. For obvious reasons, your efforts in terms of sales would become more aggressive and your sales cycles would become a little longer and 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 where they are your face in the online world. SEO is the most underrated and abused form a digital marketing. There are very few real SEO experts as 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 they do, but when they are actually 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 into your content, without compromising on relevance, more 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 to start seeing the results. Do ensure you are familiar with the team who is doing your SEO and everyone understands your business or at least what you want to show to the world. Again, I would stress on 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.

If you want your efforts to pay off and in the right direction, then consult industry experienced SEO experts to ensure quality rather than hiring inexperienced agencies who charge more.


Social Media Marketing:

Source: Orangebd

Source: Orangebd

5 posts a week per platform and 3 platforms will be chosen for $XXX per month. What do you need for this – some basic Photoshop skills, stock photography and a caption and we are ready to roll? At the end of it, all social media marketing is, is just posting cool images (most of it being stock photography). Now, this is actually partially correct, if I had to put a number across, then about 5% correct. What about the remaining 95%?

Let me guide you through the process of social media marketing, what it entails, and the effort that is required in this process.

First and foremost, understanding the brand and the audience. The audience for a 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 clearly stated that “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 reused are pretty much GUARANTEED.

There are multiple resources required to do this job. A creative director/manager, account manager, graphics team, copywriter/s. It is clearly not a 1 person job.


Our final take on SMM – Seek alignment with the team you are looking to work with. Every post, caption, the 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 in your social media team passed up a joke that is not acceptable in your culture. From a creative standpoint, ensure the team you are working with understands the concept of relatability, produces fresh content and is disciplined. Social Media can work for both B2C and B2B, though in the latter the approach is very different.

If you want to accurately capture your brand voice then you should consult an experienced social media management team  that understands your brand and audience


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