Small-business owners can use marketing ploys to promote their products or services. Generally, marketing ploys entail using a gimmick or clever angle to push your company’s product. If your marketing ploy is lighthearted and fun, people will respond well. But if it’s manipulative or sneaky, it can damage your company’s reputation.


A marketing ploy draws attention to a product, service or brand, often by virtue of a single short-term strategy. Suppose a toy manufacturer wants to jump-start sales of its new radio-controlled car. As a marketing ploy to generate buzz, the manufacturer might stage races in pedestrian-filled areas on the day before the product launch. Offering large prizes and free giveaways will increase the favorable attention. If the ploy works, crowds will gather, generating good word of mouth. Local news outlets might even cover the events, which amounts to free advertising.


Marketing ploys can backfire, especially if they are transparent attempts to take advantage of people. Suppose a manufacturer creates special T-shirts and bumper stickers in the wake of a local disaster. Even if the manufacturer has good intentions, most will view the ploy as a form of emotional exploitation. Such tactical mistakes can lead to public-relations disasters, which is why companies must study their marketing ploys from all viewpoints to decrease the risk of bad publicity.


If people think your company is using a marketing ploy, they won't take you seriously. For example, many consumers are willing to support companies that adopt sustainable practices to minimize environmental damage. Consequently, modern marketing campaigns often publicize the steps companies are taking to decrease their negative impact on the environment. But if your company’s environmental efforts aren’t serious, your marketing campaign could be seen as a ploy to capitalize on the lucrative socially-conscious market.

Mysterious Advertisements

Advertisements can desensitize consumers, especially in urban areas, where people can’t walk a block without seeing a dozen sales messages on store windows, taxis and billboards. So sometimes catching the public’s attention requires acting mysterious, which is just another marketing ploy. For example, some businesses promote an upcoming event with advertisements that tell the public something big is about to happen but don’t include specific details. If the ploy works, curiosity will mount and get people talking. But if the big reveal is a letdown, people will be annoyed with the company.