Samsung’s fake SG$3 promo: There is only so much a brand can do

Samsung has clarified that an online article promoting the new Galaxy S10 smartphone for SG$3 is fake. In a statement to Marketing, a Samsung spokesperson said the promotion is not "organised, authorised or endorsed" by Samsung Electronics Singapore and has no relation to any of its affiliates. According to the spokesperson, Samsung has also alerted consumers to be vigilant and take reasonable precautions when encountering such ad deals, which may result in identity theft or other fraud.

A quick check by Marketing found that the fake article and promotion has since been removed. The new Galaxy S10 smartphone launched in Singapore earlier in March and according to Samsung's website costs about SG$1,200.

Samsung is not the only brand to have been hit by such fake online promotions. In January this year, Singapore Airlines warned customers of a fake website offering free air tickets in return for personal details. It also advised customers to “exercise discretion” when revealing personal data to unverified sources. Meanwhile, The Straits Times (ST) was also thrown into the spotlight when a fake ST article surfaced online in June this year. The fake article detailed a sharing by local actor Shaun Chen on how he has ended his career to focus on digital currency trading and seen results.

Such fake online promotions are becoming more prevalent in this digital age and are not limited to Singapore only. Recently, Starbucks US had to clarify to fans that a particular Taylor Swift drink promotion was fake and is not valid at its stores. This came after the hashtag #MEBUCKS circulated online, prompting fans to screenshot themselves listening to Taylor Swift’s new song ME! and getting a free drink. With consumers potentially falling prey to such fake online promotions, brands risk their image being impacted.

In a conversation with Marketing, Lars Voedisch, managing director, PRecious Comms said brands need to iterate that at the end of the day, consumers get what they paid for. He explained:

A brand is a promise of genuine quality products and experiences, which come with a certain price for the offered and perceived value.

He added that if there is a lack of balance between quality of products and price, "something must be off". To ensure consumers are not baited into fake promotions, brands need to remind customers to ideally buy through the brand or authorised resellers. As such, brands can recommend consumers to the vetted and authorised retailers or verified online channels for genuine products.

"Brands can also iterate that the products are manufactured by them and they have genuine and quality products, as well as a warranty that comes with purchased goods," Voedisch said. According to him, it does not take much to be a retailer in Singapore, and a typical strategy for alternative, unverified sellers is having low prices to lure customers.

"But consumers have to understand that if it sounds too good to be true, most likely it is. A typical way to tempt gullible customers would be the 'bait and switch' approach such as starting with a hard-to-resist offer, but then tell them there were only very few items available and it has all been sold out," he said.

Onus lies on consumers

Agreeing with Voedisch on consumers being savvy enough to be aware of fake promos, Carolyn Camoens, managing director Asia, Hume Brophy explained that with so much disinformation out there, the onus is now on the audience to verify. Echoing Voedisch, she added that if it appears too good to be true, it probably is.

According to Camoens, some fakes are easier to spot than others, but once a consumer does research and finds that what appears to be a promo is in fact, phishing, there will less likely be any harm to the brand’s reputation. She added:

It's important to not be reliant on single sources of information these days, whether it is exclusively by the brand or media. It’s not just prudent, but necessary, to have a stable of trusted sources.

However, it is also crucial that brands establish the facts for consumers to have a trusted source to turn to for the truth. "What’s interesting here is the level to which the scam was perpetrated with fake reviews and the impression of a legitimate news report. As scammers up their game, we need to hone our instincts for what’s fake," Camoens added.

Sharing a different stance on the fake promo matter is Julie Chiang, director, Asia PR Werkz. According to Chiang, the fake promo to a certain extent, helped to promote the brand in an indirect way.

“Consumers may more likely check out the phone, may not be from the site but also from other authentic sites to find out more about the specifications and functions of the phone,” she said. However on the flip side, consumers could potentially place the blame on the brand if they do get scammed through fake promos.

Reiterating both Voedisch and Camoens’ views, Chiang too said when a deal is too good to be true, it is too good to be true.  Unless the brand has communicated in other media platforms such as through ads and openly via media channels and its authorised partners, she was quick to add.

“The brand should address this on its official site(s) and warn consumers of such fake promotions. Brands should also allow consumers a platform to verify if in doubt of certain promotions,” Chiang said.

(Photo courtesy: Samsung's Facebook)