Volkswagen, Red Bull, and Imperial Blue: Deceptive Marketing Strategies

Topic: Marketing
Words: 631 Pages: 2

Deceptive acts refer to any act or practice that misrepresents or omits information in a manner capable of misleading consumers and creating a detrimental situation. Federal Trade Commission requires any firm that creates advertisement claims to make clear disclosure to avoid misleading claims (Campbell & Grimm, 2019). Thus, the firm that makes a claim should place the disclosure within proximity to the claim pre-eminently and conspicuously (Campbell & Grimm, 2019). Further, the business enterprise’s language to make disclosure should be simple and avoid elements that divert their attention from that disclosure.

One of the deceptive advertisements involved Volkswagen, a vehicle manufacturing company. The company had an advertising campaign aimed at promoting its clean diesel vehicles that were free from emissions that had the potential of polluting the air (Jacobs & Kalbers, 2019). The promotion targeted the consumers who had a concern about environmental pollution and thus desired emission-free vehicles. The message was deceptive and made the company sell or lease beyond 550000 cars, whereby the consumer believed that they were environmentally friendly air (Jacobs & Kalbers, 2019). FTC established in 2015 that Volkswagen had cheated emission tests on the said diesel vehicles for the previous seven years (Jacobs & Kalbers, 2019). The claim that the vehicles were Clean Diesel was false and deceptive and potentially raised sales from the falsehood for a long time. The company should have replaced the word ‘Clean’ with ‘Lower emission Vehicles.’

Another deceptive advertisement involved the Red Bull brand from an energy drinks company. The company’s claims that Red Bull energy drink would give the consumer wings were misleading and made people consume the brand in large amounts for a long time, but the claim could not work (Kraak et al., 2020). The brand targeted the youth interested in extreme and challenging sports who desire to live energized lives that would help them in such demanding undertakings. Further, the company claimed that it could enhance consumers’ agility and concentration. One US citizen named Beganin Caraethers is an example of how deception in advertisements affects customers (Kraak et al., 2020). According to Beganin, he regularly drank Red Bull for ten years, expecting to develop physically and intellectually, an expectation that the drink could not meet (Kraak et al., 2020). Replacing the phrase ‘Gives you Wings’ with ‘More energy to Explore’ could have been less deceptive.

Surrogate advertisement involves advertising a prohibited product by disguising it as a different product name. The use of surrogate advertisements has led to misleading marketing of items that indirectly influence the consumers’ lives and may be deceptive (Rout et al., 2021). For instance, the Imperial Blue whisky brand has used music CDs and the phrase “Men will be men”, depicting how the whisky inspires confidence in men, which is deceptive (Rout et al. 2021). This kind of brand promotion is deceptive to the extent that it seeks to advertise its brand in disguise of music that viewers and listeners like, including those who do not like alcohol. The phrase “Men will be Men” in the Imperial Blue surrogate advert aims at manipulating men with a false belief that drinking the whisky gives them the confidence to act maturely and responsibly. Fixing the ad would require a change of the portrayed behavior such that only normal acceptable conduct is shown.

In conclusion, deceptive advertisements take different forms in that they mislead unsuspecting consumers. This paper has analyzed some brands which have employed deceptive marketing strategies. These brands include Volkswagen’s claim of low clean diesel vehicles, Red Bull energy drink’s ability to give wings to the consumers, and Liquor company Imperial Blue’s use of surrogate advertisement in the form of Music CDs. FTC has given the requisite guidelines that firms should follow in advertisements to avoid misrepresentation of facts in regards to their brands.


Campbell, C., & Grimm, P. E. (2019). The challenges native advertising poses: Exploring potential Federal Trade Commission responses and identifying research needs. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 38(1), 110–123.

Jacobs, D., & Kalbers, L. P. (2019). The Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal and accountability. The CPA Journal, 89(7), 16-21.

Kraak, V. I., Davy, B. M., Rockwell, M. S., Kostelnik, S., & Hedrick, V. E. (2020). Policy recommendations to address energy drink marketing and consumption by vulnerable populations in the United States. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120(5), 767-777.

Rout, D., Mishra, S. J., Mishra, A., & Mehta, V. (2021). Impact of surrogate advertisement: an unconventional and revolutionary tool of marketers. Management, 9(1), 4098.

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