Marketing Matters Nov/Dec 2015 ISSUE 47. Thank you for your continued support, you can find more articles on

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Back in the day in the USA, when car-buyers generally trusted Volkswagen, the company was highly praised in marketing and advertising circles for its refreshingly honest 1960 Lemon advertisement.

This black and white ad showed a VW Beetle with the word "Lemon" underneath, and explained that rigorous inspection procedures rejected around one in fifty Beetles, sometimes for something as minor as a small scratch on the windscreen or a blemish on chrome, and that VW called these rejected cars Lemons. The sign-off was "We pluck the lemons; you get the plums".

Today VW have a rather larger lemon-plucking job to do since being caught in the USA fitting "defeat" software that cheats emission tests to around 11million of its diesel cars in the USA and Europe, lemons that will now have to be recalled and turned back into plums, at a cost of around £5 billion. Moreover the estimated deaths from the illegal amounts of nitrous oxide spewed out by the rogue VWs - up to 40 times the allowable amount in the USA - are said to be between 16 and 94 people in the USA, many more in Europe. And of course there's the loss of trust as Volkswagen have had to admit to all that they behaved dishonestly, an aspect that has cast a cloud over the whole motor industry, with some pointing out that other manufacturers have curiously neglected to condemn VWs deceit, and wondering why not.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) which promotes the motor trade has confidently stated that the VW case is isolated, rather than industry-wide. Time will tell. Meanwhile a Panorama programme on the issue is now due to be screened by the BBC on Monday November 23. Coincidentally this is the day before the SMMT's Annual Dinner on the 24th, a glittering affair at the Grosvenor House, where this year's speaker is the well-respected, witty and sharply insightful broadcaster Nick Robinson, a former deputy editor at Panorama, who will hopefully have lots of interesting and witty insights into the motor trade to share with SMMT.


Doctors are being paid bribes for not referring their patients to hospital specialists, it has emerged.

The bribes are being paid by some NHS clinical commissioning groups, such as in Lambeth and North East Lincolnshire, who deny that their actions could undermine patient trust in doctors, or compromise needed medical care. The bribes apply to referrals by doctors for cancer diagnosis.

However the British Medical Association says: "The BMA has always opposed schemes that pay GPs not to refer patients as they may undermine patient's confidence that GPs will always do the right thing for them. There is also the potential risk that patients won't get the specialist care they need".

So why doesn’t the BMA just require all medical practitioners to be transparent and declare to all their patients all the bribes and incentives they are being offered, and by whom, and which ones they have accepted?


According to the Transparency Intenational Corruption Perception Index list, which ranks 175 countries by levels of corruption, the most corrupt in the world are Somalia and North Korea at the bottom of the table at joint 174th. Moving up the list, at 173rd is Sudan, followed by Afghanistan (172) South Sudan (171) Iraq (170) Turkmenistan (169) and Uzbekistan, Libya and Eritrea at joint 166th. The least corrupt, at the top of the table is Denmark in first position, followed by New Zealand (2) Finland (3) Sweden (4) Norway and Switzerland at joint 5th, followed by Singapore, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Canada in 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th places.

Some big players on the list, with their positions, are Australia (11) Germany (12) United Kingdom (14) Japan (16) Hong Kong and the United States (Joint 17 with Ireland and Barbados) United Arab Emirates (25) France (Joint 26 with Estonia and Qatar)) Portugal (Joint 31 with Puerto Rico, Cyprus and Botswana) Spain (Joint 37 with Israel) Saudi Arabia (Joint 55 with Bahrain, Jordan, Lesotho, Namibia and Rwanda) South Africa (Joint 67 with Kuwait) Brazil, Greece and Italy (all joint 69) India (Joint 85 with Burkina Faso, Jamaica, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago and Zambia) Egypt (94) China (100) and Nigeria Iran and Russia (Joint 136).

Some of the countries with a poor showing are, or have been making efforts to clean up. In Nigeria, land of scams and one of the most corrupt in Africa, new president Muhammadu Buhari has warned that life there, and his country's reputation, will only improve if Nigerians give up their lawless ways. And in China the anti-corruption drive powered by president Xi Jinping since 2012 has resulted in a sharp reduction in the purchase of big-ticket items used as bribes, and the closure of expensive restaurants used for lavish entertaining. In a Sunday Times article about China's economic slow-down one former manager of an upmarket restaurant used by Chinese officials told the newspaper: "When officials came to our restaurant they always spent at least 5,000 yuan (£500) and we gave them invoices for double that, but after the corruption campaign I didn't see any customers like that".


Banks are anxious to get everyone using contactless debit cards, despite the proven problems of accidental charging and high fraud risk, so that their marketeers can collect valuable information on their customer's spending habits, to be sold on.

An editorial piece by Ross Clark in the Daily Mail - "Creepy reason banks want us all to have 'tap and pay' cards" - pointed out the ease with which researchers at Which? magazine were able to obtain a card reader, place it where someone's wallet would pass within a few centimetres of it and then use the name and card number collected to buy a £3,000 television set, despite assurances from the banks that the maximum anyone would be able to take was £20.

Also mentioned were the flood of complaints received by Marks and Spencer when their customers paid cash but still had the amount deducted from their contactless card as well. And Transport for London had to deal with irate passengers who found their Oyster card, when in contact in their wallet or purse with their contactless card, was charging them the maximum fare when they touched in and their contactless card was doing the same as they touched out, turning a £3 journey into an £18 one.

Spending habit data collected from credit and debit card purchases has always been sold on and used to better target telephone sales and junk mail campaigns, and the data from contactless sales is also a saleable item, so the more people the banks can get using their cards the more profit they will make.

Question is, with their track record do they deserve it? And do you feel inclined to help them?

(Note. Those who don't can request, like the writer, that the contactless card sent is destroyed and replaced by the traditional one)


The Parliamentary standards watchdog has criticised Channel 4 and The Daily Telegraph for unfairly tarnishing the reputations of Malcolm Rifkind (Conservative) and Jack Straw (Labour). Both politicians were caught in a sting earlier this year in which they thought they were going to make a lot of money by selling their knowledge of governments, and their ability to influence them, to Chinese business interests. (See Marketing Matters, Issue 43, March/April 2015, JACK GOES UNDER THE RADAR)

In the filmed interviews both men boasted of their successes in this area, and Straw commented that he had found it was best to get laws changed in favour of his business paymasters "under the radar", presumably meaning out of public sight.

Both the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4 have defended their sting as fair, and in the public interest with the Telegraph noting that "Parliament still sees fit for MPs to be judge and jury on their own conduct".

For most the cases of Rifkind and Straw, and the defensive reaction of the Parliamentary standards watchdog, provide more compelling reasons why our politicians should never, ever control the media.


Amazon are taking 1,114 people to court who they say have been paid to write fake reviews to boost customer confidence in products and services, aspects that Amazon says tarnishes their image.

The action, launched in Seattle USA, follows Amazon's successful legal actions in April against four websites offering positive reviews for sale.


Another online scam going around, and hacking into people's email accounts to do it, is designed to encourage those who would like to make around £100,000 a year from easy share-dealing from home to sign up for a £200 scheme that uses, they say "a patented mathematical algorithm that was developed especially for binary options trading" to accurately predict shares likely to make a profit for those buying them.

Amazingly the developers of this amazing tool are remaining anonymous but punters can watch a video-blog of "Lisa White from London" who has a number of names and domiciles depending on who the email is sent to (She is also "Melissa Johnson", "Emma Coleman" in Australia, and "Veera Koskinen" in Finland) and who says she makes £7,650 a month, or $7,650 in Australia. It's all promoted with an email to look like a news website and called Online Career Journal, and it's all fiction.

Those who know about "Pump and dump" share scams will recognise the hall-marks on this one and realise that the scammers will wait until they have enough punters who are share-dealing before themselves buying a huge parcel of obscure stocks, promoting them heavily to their subscribers to ramp up the price (the pump) and then selling all their own when enough people have bought (the dump), whereafter the price then plummets, and the scammers start another one.

If it sounds too good to be true...



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