Chris Moerdyk

Terms and conditions should not apply

2012-07-02 07:49

Chris Moerdyk

One of these days some enterprising company is going to really start winning the hearts, minds and wallets of the consumer by advertising the fact that "absolutely no terms or conditions apply".

When you think about it, the "terms and conditions apply" fine print that appears on just about all advertisements these days is nothing more than a pretty stupid compromise deal struck between advertisers and our befuddled advertising regulators.

On radio, they don't even spell it out anymore, but just throw in a cursory "Ts & Cs apply" at the end of the commercial.

It’s a bit like spotting the woman of your dreams across a crowded room and after hours of fantasising about living forever with her, she comes across and flings herself into your arms talking about love at first sight and asking you to carry her away. And then you discover that she has been married 10 times, has halitosis to beat the band and thinks Brent Crude is the villain in Isidingo.

Looking for someone to trust

In this day and age consumers are desperately looking for someone or something to trust. And using a promise as bait and conditions as a hook might get some consumers to swallow what they're being offered but it hardly engenders any form of loyalty.

The whole idea behind it of course is that advertisers complained that it was far too expensive to spend time on TV, radio and in print actually spelling out every detail of the conditions  behind every offer, so they were allowed to just toss in a warning "terms and conditions" apply.

Because human nature is such that disappointment is the bedfellow of lowered expectations it is inevitable that when a consumer responds to ads with the Ts&Cs warning they are not going to get what the essence of the ad was offering in the first place.

So, who needs to keep dealing with someone who constantly disappoints you? Besides the Zimbabwean electorate that is.

Disappointment suppressed

What makes all this kind of marketing work some of the time in spite of annoying consumers all of the time, is that a sizeable chunk of the South African market so desperately wants to own things that disappointment is suppressed. It relies on advertising that appeals to our impulses and as everyone knows, impulses most often lead to regret.

Which in the short term is fine, but it's my bet that consumers are getting both weary and wary of the terms and conditions ploy and are now looking for someone who will sell them something without all those strings attached.

It is common knowledge that it costs 10 times as much to find new customers as it is to keep existing customers coming back for more.

And advertised promises riddled with terms and conditions very rarely bring people back for more.  Because when something involves or costs more than you expect, going ahead with the deal inevitably leaves a sour taste in your mouth. So sour that next time you'll try somewhere else first.

This sort of marketing is not only silly but also very expensive.

Not giving a toss

To me the "terms and conditions apply" option is the same as those companies that use call-centres to handle consumer complaints.

It's a compromise that smacks of not giving a toss about customers.

I would never advise any company to resort to this stupid cop-out.  
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