Deceptive Marketing Outcomes: A Model for Marketing Communications

  • Kim B. SerotaEmail author


Deceptive marketing is pervasive, and it is fundamentally different from deception in many other contexts. This chapter examines how planned communications and the profit motive drive advertising and marketing deception. It looks at deception’s emergence as a key issue for the marketing disciple, the role of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in shaping a legal definition of deception, categorical ways messages are crafted to mislead, and how material injury to the consumer determines when marketing deception has actually occurred. The chapter examines the idea that outcome, rather than deceptive intent, is crucial to deception in the commercial environment. The discussion concludes with the deceptive marketing outcomes model, which places marketing deception into the broader framework of mainstream theory and research on human deception, and suggests avenues for additional theoretical development.


Advertising Marketing Federal Trade Commission FTC Material injury Outcomes Deception Misleading Puffery 



Eric Ortbal deserves substantial credit for his contribution to this chapter’s review and synthesis of the marketing deception literature. Tim Levine provided crucial insight during the development of the DMO model. Tony Docan-Morgan is to be commended for his patience and superb editorial guidance.


  1. Aaker, D. A. (1974). Deceptive advertising. In D. A. Aaker & G. S. Day (Eds.), Consumerism: Search for the consumer interest (pp. 137–156). New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  2. Abela, A. V. (2014). Appealing to the imagination: Effective and ethical marketing of religion. Journal of Business Research, 67, 50–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179–211.Google Scholar
  4. Akerlof, G. (1970). The market for lemons. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 84(3), 488–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. American Marketing Association. (2013). Definition of marketing. Retrieved from
  6. Andrews, J. C., Netemeyer, R. G., & Burton, S. (1998). Consumer generalization of nutrient content claims in advertising. The Journal of Marketing, 62(4), 62–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Armstrong, G. M., Kendall, C. L., & Russ, F. A. (1975). Applications of consumer information processing research to public policy issues. Communication Research, 2(3), 232–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Asch, S. E. (1951). Effects of group pressure on the modification and distortion of judgments. In H. Guetzkow (Ed.), Groups, leadership and men (pp. 177–190). Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bates v. State Bar of Arizona. (1977). 433 U.S. 350.Google Scholar
  10. Bok, S. (1999). Lying: Moral choice in public and private life. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  11. Bond, C. F., Jr., & DePaulo, B. M. (2006). Accuracy of deception judgments. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(3), 214–234.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boush, D. M., Friestad, M., & Wright, P. (2009). Deception in the marketplace: The psychology of deceptive persuasion and consumer self-protection. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Burgoon, J. K., & Levine, T. R. (2010). Advances in deception detection. In. S. Smith & S. Wilson (Eds.), New directions in interpersonal communication (pp. 201–220). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Burke, R. R., DeSarbo, W. S., Oliver, R. L., & Robertson, T. S. (1988). Deception by implication: An experimental investigation. Journal of Consumer Research, 14(4), 483–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Burke, S. J., Milberg, S. J., & Moe, W. W. (1997). Displaying common but previously neglected health claims on product labels: Understanding competitive advantages, deception, and education. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 16(2), 242–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chonko, L. B., & Hunt, S. D. (1985). Ethics and marketing management: An empirical examination. Journal of Business Research, 13(4), 339–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chonko, L. B., & Hunt, S. D. (2000). Ethics and marketing management: A retrospective and prospective commentary. Journal of Business Research, 50(3), 235–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence, science, and practice (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  19. Cohen, S. (2017). Manipulation and deception. Australasian Journal of Philosophy. Scholar
  20. Craig, R. T. (1999). Communication theory as a field. Communication Theory, 9(2), 119–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dahlen, M., Lange, F., & Smith, T. (2010). Marketing communications: A brand narrative approach. West Sussex: Wiley.Google Scholar
  22. Deutsch, M., & Gerard, H. B. (1955). A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgment. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51(3), 629–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dillon, T. (1973). What is deceptive advertising? Journal of Advertising Research, 13(5), 9–12.Google Scholar
  24. Dyer, R. F., & Kuehl, P. G. (1974). The “corrective advertising” remedy of the FTC: An experimental evaluation. The Journal of Marketing, 38(1), 48–54.Google Scholar
  25. eMarketer. (2017). Worldwide ad spending: eMarketer’s updated estimates and forecasts for 2016–2021 [Online executive summary]. Retrieved from
  26. Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914. (as amended 2006). Retrieved from
  27. Fontanarosa, P. B., Rennie, D., & DeAngelis, C. D. (2003). The need for regulation of dietary supplements—Lessons from ephedra. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 289(12), 1568–1570.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Freer, R. E. (1949). Informative and nondeceptive advertising. Journal of Marketing, 13(3), 358–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Friedman, M. (1970, September 13). The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. New York Times Magazine.Google Scholar
  30. FTC Policy Statement on Deception. (1983). Retrieved from
  31. Gardner, D. M. (1975). Deception in advertising: A conceptual approach. Journal of Marketing, 39, 40–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gardner, D. M., & Ross, I. (1973, May). Potential contributions of consumer psychology to deceptive advertising determinations and corrective measures. Presented at 44th Annual Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  33. Gneezy, U. (2005). Deception: The role of consequences. American Economic Review, 95(1), 384–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Godin, S. (2005). All marketers are liars: The power of telling authentic stories in a low-trust world. New York: Portfolio.Google Scholar
  35. Grice, H. P. (1989). Studies in the way of words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Harris, R. J., & Monaco, G. E. (1978). Psychology of pragmatic implication: Information processing between the lines. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 107(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hastak, M., & Mazis, M. B. (2011). Deception by implication: A typology of truthful but misleading advertising and labeling claims. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 30(2), 157–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hoffman, D. A. (2006). The best puffery article ever. Iowa Law Review, 91, 1395–1448.Google Scholar
  39. Houser, N., & Kloesel, C. (Eds.). (1992). The essential Peirce: Volume 1: Selected philosophical writings (1867–1893). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Jackson, J. (1990). Honesty in marketing. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 7(1), 51–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kaufmann, P. J., Smith, N. C., & Ortmeyer, G. K. (1994). Deception in retailer high-low pricing: A “rule of reason” approach. Journal of Retailing, 70(2), 115–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kintner, E. W. (1966). Federal trade commission regulation of advertising. Michigan Law Review, 64(7), 1269–1284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kottman, E. J. (1964). A Semantic evaluation of misleading advertising. Journal of Communication, 14(3), 151–156.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Laszlo, C., & Zhexembayeva, N. (2011). Embedded sustainability: The next big competitive advantage. Stanford, CA: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Levine, T. R. (2014). Truth-Default Theory (TDT): A theory of human deception and deception detection. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 33(4), 378–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lord, C. G., Ross, L., & Lepper, M. R. (1979). Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(11), 2098–2109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mazar, N., & Ariely, D. (2006). Dishonesty in everyday life and its policy implications (Working Paper Series, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, No. 06-3). Boston, MA: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.Google Scholar
  48. Oliver, R. L. (1979). An interpretation of the attitudinal and behavioral effects of puffery. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 13(1), 8–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Olson, J. C., & Dover, P. A. (1978). Cognitive effects of deceptive advertising. Journal of Marketing Research, 15, 29–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pappalardo, J. K. (1997). The role of consumer research in evaluating deception: An economist’s perspective. Antitrust Law Journal, 65(3), 793–812.Google Scholar
  51. Petty, R. D. (1997). Advertising law in the United States and European Union. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 16(1), 2–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Petty, R. D. (2014). International advertising law and regulation: A research review and agenda—The devil is in the details. In H. Cheng (Ed.), The handbook of international advertising research (pp. 395–410). Malden, MA: Wiley.Google Scholar
  53. Preston, I. L. (1977). The FTC’s handling of puffery and other selling claims made “by implication”. Journal of Business Research, 5(2), 155–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Preston, I. L. (1996). The great American blow-up: Puffery in advertising and selling. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  55. Rotfeld, H. J., & Rotzoll, K. B. (1980). Is advertising puffery believed? Journal of Advertising, 9(3), 16–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rotfeld, H. J., & Rotzoll, K. B. (1981). Puffery vs. fact claims—Really different? Current Issues and Research in Advertising4(1), 85–103.Google Scholar
  57. Russo, J. E., Metcalf, B. L., & Stephens, D. (1981). Identifying misleading advertising. Journal of Consumer Research, 8(2), 119–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schank, R. C., & Abelson, R. P. (1977). Scripts, plans, goals, and understanding: An inquiry into human knowledge structures. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  59. Serota, K. B. (2014). Marketing, deceptive. In T. R. Levine (Ed.), Encyclopedia of deception (Vol. 2, pp. 643–647). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  60. Serota, K. B., & Levine, T. R. (2013, July). Truth bias and the detection of marketing deception. Presentation at the 35th ISMS Marketing Science Conference, Istanbul, Turkey.Google Scholar
  61. Serota, K. B., Levine, T. R., & Boster, F. J. (2010). The prevalence of lying in America: Three studies of self-reported lies. Human Communication Research, 36, 2–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Shimp, T. A., & Preston, I. L. (1981). Deceptive and nondeceptive consequences of evaluative advertising. The Journal of Marketing, 45(1), 22–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Thompson, M. (2002). Marketing virtue. Business Ethics: A European Review, 11(4), 354–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Upshaw, L. (2007). Truth: The new rules for marketing in a skeptical world. New York: AMACOM.Google Scholar
  65. Urbany, J. E., Bearden, W. O., & Weilbaker, D. C. (1988). The effect of plausible and exaggerated reference prices on consumer perceptions and price search. Journal of Consumer Research, 15(1), 95–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Xie, G. X., & Boush, D. M. (2011). How susceptible are consumers to deceptive advertising claims? A retrospective look at the experimental research literature. The Marketing Review, 11(3), 293–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management and MarketingOakland UniversityRochesterUSA

Personalised recommendations