Competition in the business world today has became harder, particularly for businessmen who are lazy in innovating their products. At the same time, the consumers get smarter and smarter, thus their loyalty to certain product tend to decrease. This condition pushes some businessmen – especially those who neglect the lawful or unlawful matter – to use all tricks. Their main consideration is to gain as many profit as possible. Among their slick trick in marketing their product is by using bombastic words that woo the consumers. We could find so many companies that one-sidedly make misleading claims, such as the slogan, “The No. 1 Product” or “The Cheapest Product”.
A one-sided claim, as the example above, is certainly a false claim, alias a fraud. As a smart consumer, you’ve surely known that to be able to issue that claim, they need to conduct research and comparative study over the other products. And to conduct it, they need vast amount of time, effort, and fund, which can burden or even inflict a financial loss to the them. Moreover if those companies know that no one will be bother to criticize or question the accuracy of their claims. Such one-sided claim is clearly violating the shari’a since it contains element of lie and fraud.
“Two people that are transacting each has the right to choose to cancel the contract, as long as they haven’t separated, thus their trading will be blessed; but if they lie and cover up(the truth, -ed) from one another, the blessing of that trade will be omitted.” (Muttafaqun ‘alaih)
This hadith stresses out that lying in trading is forbidden, even though it can yield some profits.
One day, when Imam Auza’i came out from one of the mosques in Beirut, he met an onion monger, which in Arabic is called bashal. Imam Auza’i was surprised to hear the monger’s propaganda in marketing his onion, as he announced loudly, promoting it, “O onion that is sweeter than honey!”.
Imam Auza’i commented spontaneously, “Glorified be Allah! Does this monger think that there’s a lawful lie? Seems like he believes that he is free to lie.” (See: Al- Bidayah wa An-Nihayah by Ibn Katsir, 10/119)
Such one-sided claim now has been known to the consumers since it is done to all products. Consumers awareness make the claim of “no.1” fruitless, and it is not enough to increase the sale. This fact prompts some businessmen to step further in their evil method. To return the magical power of claim “no.1”, they add a new “weapon” namely black campaign, directed to their competitor’s product.
They attempt to leave impression to the consumer that their competitor’s products are expensive, and of no quality.
This “weapon” only add their list of lie in marketing, since they issue the claims when people had proven that similar product sometimes have equal function and quality, or at least, resemble one another. Thus, aside of proving there is a practice of lie in marketing, this phenomenon also prove the existence of unhealthy competition among businessmen. This fact is real proof of the Prophet’s saying -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him-:
“Indeed, the merchants will be resurrected in the Hereafter as evil men, except merchant who fear Allah, doing good, and honest.” (Narrated by At Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibban, Al-Hakim and classified as valid by Al-Albani)
Public Figure’s Testimony
Among marketing tips that has been proven to be powerful is by using testimony or recommendation of a public figure, such as movie star or religious leader. Their big name or popularity is hoped to increase popularity and thus sale of the advertised product. Often their recommendations or testimonies are just a contract that they’ve signed with certain companies. Whereas we realize that recommendation, or what known as “advice” in religion supposed to be based on honesty and not on a motive to obtain profit.
The values of faith and honesty taught in our religion are against any kind of advice or suggestion that is based on money profit and not on sincerity. Moreover, reality has proven that some of the testimonies in commercials are not proven, or in another word, are lies. The Messenger -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- said:
“Whoever trick us, is not our kind.” (Narrated by Muslim).
The rise of profit-based testimony that is far from the values of honesty, or such advice is a clear evidence of the moral breakdown of the society. And probably, this is the condition that the Prophet -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- referred to in his saying,
“Verily, later, after you, there will be generation that is accustomed to be traitorous, and can not be trusted. They will easily testify, whereas they are not asked to testify, and they will easily vow, but they do not fulfill it. As in their midst there are many fat people (due to their over-eating and drinking).” (Muttafaqun ‘alaih)
Thinking about this condition is indeed saddening. However, as a believer, your sadness shouldn’t drag you into despair and eventually cause you to be idle. Values of your beliefs inside of you will certainly trigger you to make change, at least within you, and the people around you. Be a good example for other people in this worldly life, including in the field of trading and marketing.
May this article help you to understand various phenomenon in the ever-expanding world of marketing.
And Allah knows best.
Syaikh DR. Muhammad Arifin Baderi