Deceitful desire: Exposing how brands exploit Nigerian consumers

By Adetunji Faleye

In the bustling city of Lagos, a metropolitan city of aquatic splendour, the sun rises on a typical day for Tolu, a hardworking young man who commutes to work on overcrowded buses, fueled by hope and determination. Little did he know that he, along with millions of other Nigerian consumers, were about to be entangled in a web of deceit orchestrated by unscrupulous brands.

The story begins with the launch of a new hard drink (name withheld),” promising an invigorating boost to everyone’s daily routine. The flashy advertisements bombarded many cities across the country, apart from northern states of the country where alcohol is regarded to be against their religion. The drink showcased successful athletes and celebrities endorsing the product with gusto. Lured by the enticing promises, Tolu decided to give it a try.

However, as weeks passed, Tolu felt no significant change in his energy levels. Doubt started to creep into his mind. Perplexed, he started researching the ingredients and discovers that the key components responsible for the “boost” were either negligible or harmful in large quantities. Disheartened, Tolu realized that he has been deceived by clever marketing tactics.

But, this is not an isolated incident. Across Nigeria, countless brands engage in similar deceptive practices, capitalizing on the consumer’s trust and ignorance. Misleading labels, false advertising, orchestrated media promotions and underwhelming products are becoming rampant.

The cosmetic industry is also in the act. A well-known skincare brand, claimed to offer miraculous transformations with its “organic and natural” products. Tempted by the promise of flawless skin, Kemi, a young office worker, became a devoted customer. However, after experiencing skin irritation and rashes, she discovered that the products contained harsh chemicals and are anything but natural. The brand had been preying on her desire for beauty and confidence.

The beverage industry is not exempted from this deceitful game. Some of the soft drink producing companies do tout their products as wholesome and nutritious, perfect for those seeking refreshing body. Yet, investigations revealed that the ingredients used are often loaded with sugar, preservatives, and some questionable ingredients. Innocent consumers like Uche, Sola and Musa and many others who sought to improve their refreshing system ended up falling victim to the charade.

The telco industry is also a culprit in this aspect, shortchanging subscribers. With epileptic services, bad network and failure in data usage, subscribers have seen the height of incompetence and orchestrated system to deny them from enjoying their data and good services.

When asked about the services of telcos in Nigeria, Sade Oyebade, a civil servant who reside in Lekki, Lagos said, “The services of some of these telcos are nothing to write home about. One is not even enjoying what she is paying for as their data doesn’t last now a days. I made countless efforts to get them rectify incessant deductions of my data still, all my complaints have not yielded success. I have tried and they kept on saying that I activated a particular package which, to me is a way of face saving because, I did not activate any package. And when you instruct them to remove such package, that will not stop the crazy deduction.”

For Ajibola Elizabeth, a trader in Berger area of Lagos, who uses all the four networks, “The deduction of data by the networks is horrible and one need to consider it seriously if one is to continue using them. Why I have not abandoned all the networks is because I have been using them for many years, and many customers have known me with the networks. But I have abandoned two networks for now.”

For analysts, this exploitation has been going on for so long, because the regulatory agencies are not up to task in monitoring the network providers. They believe the result of gross ineffectiveness by the regulatory agencies has enabled network providers to perpetrate all these by bypassing safety and quality checks.

Credit: MBA Skool

Deceptive marketing strategies

While deceptive marketing has become endemic in this market, experts say recognizing such marketing tricks is essential to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions and protect themselves from brands deceit.

Akin Ogunwale, a marketing consultant based in Lagos said, in order to avoid deceptive marketing tactics, consumers need to be cautious of claims that sound overly exaggerated or promise unrealistic results. And if an offer seems too good to be true, they should realise that it’s probably deceptive.

He also said, “deceptive marketers often create a sense of urgency to push consumers into making a quick decision.” To avoid this, he advised that they “should watch out for phrases like ‘limited-time offer’ or ‘buy now.’ He said legitimate deals should allow you time to scrutinise and think before making purchasing decision.”

He added that consumers should also watch out for unverified and impressive statistics that lack credible sources or references, as this may be red flag for consumers to take caution about the product and make sure that they always verify any claim with independent sources.

Other experts say deceptive marketing may downplay additional costs or fees associated with a product or service. According to them, consumers should cleverly review the label and ask for clarification if anything seems unclear.

They added that deceptive marketing often plays on emotions, using fear, guilt, or excitement to sway consumers’ decisions. They advise consumers to carefully assess the information objectively.

The use of celebrity endorsement also comes to play, as Joel Adetoye, a marketing professional makes clarification that while celebrity endorsements can be legitimate, they should realise that some marketers use them to lend credibility to subpar products. Therefore, consumers need to examine the product independently before making decision.

Experts advise consumers to be cautious of marketing messages they don’t sign up for or don’t expect to receive, because scammers often send unsolicited emails or text messages to lure consumers into making purchasing decisions that may be detrimental to them. They say, if a marketer is aggressively pushing a consumer to buy and won’t take “no” for an answer, it’s best to walk away.

In conclusion, experts say consumers should remember that critical thinking and thorough research are their best defenses against deceptive marketing. They advise consumers to take their time, ask questions, and consult independent sources before making purchasing decisions.

Image credit: glean.info

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