A Devil Called ‘*’!!!

What does the * (asterisk sign) mean to you? To me, it has come to represent ‘conditions apply’ i.e. the ‘moral’ right of marketers to not share information about their promotions tactics!

I look around myself and I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of * signs in advertising/promotions. I fail to understand why every promotion is being designed with riders attached to it. I know that Indian consumers have a Right to Information, but I feel that this is impotent as a policy. What we need, perhaps, is ‘Liability to Disclose Information’. Companies have to voluntarily disclose all relevant terms and conditions to the consumers before consummating a contract with them. Its not enough for them to put a * sign and transfer this burden to the consumer to find the ‘conditions’ that apply to a specific promotion. The creator of these terms must disclose them to the targeted recipients. I have spoken to numerous people who feel ‘duped’ by the * sign. They just ‘fall’ for an unattractive offer which is dressed up attractively. True, the devil is in the details, but companies becoming bigger, nastier devils by not disclosing the details fairly.

The situation has deteriorated to such an extent in sectors like banking, insurance, retailing etc. that I feel that there is a gap in the market in which companies can position themselves – companies can now position themselves around propositions like Honesty, Transparency and Consumer Ethics. A sound operationalization & execution of such a positioning strategy can do wonders in a treacherous market-place.

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