Using a smear campaign to promote a competing product

I’m in the process of developing some landing pages that are using a real story from something that happened to me in real life, to sell a competitors product. Let me tell you the story and exactly what I’m doing and see what you think.

The story with the horrible truck rental that sprung the idea

The story starts about 4 days ago. You may or may not know, but I’m moving from Boston, MA to Los Angeles, CA this week. I decided to rent a truck and drive with 3 other people. We took the truck we rented and a separate car. So, we rented a truck from a company that I will not yet name (and will not, assuming they mitigate the situation.) But, here’s where the really fun stuff comes in…

Within the first 4 days of our drive, the truck broke down 4 times. Yes, 4 times. Overheating, broken belts, locked pulleys, flat tires, burnt out headlights while driving on a highway with no lights, you name it, it’s happened. So, we are way behind on the trip and have been sitting in hotel rooms everyday as the next issue with this truck happens. They refused to replace it up until today, and only being 400 miles from Los Angeles, we don’t care too much anymore and just want to get there. So much for a fund road trip, we had to go major city to major city to be near repair shops.

The idea

So, as I am sitting around in my hotel room waiting for yet another repair that may or may not even happen by the time we have to leave, I get an idea.

How many competing truck rental companies are there, in Los Angeles alone? A quick googling shows that there are hundreds for local moves and dozens for long distance moves.

How can I take advantage of my horror story with this currently unmentioned company?

Bingo. Let’s drive traffic to a landing page telling my horror story and who I recommend as an alternative, and collect a portion of the affiliate revenue.  Maybe I’ll even do a video. Maybe I’ll even do it for free so the company can’t try to sue me for damages, even though this is all true events and I have the right to freedom of speech. Anyways on to the experiment part of this that you guys might be able to use in other niches…

All it takes is 10 minutes, I find a dozen companies with affiliate programs, pay per call programs and more in the truck rental biz.

I sign up for 10 different accounts and I start creating the iPhone video telling my horror story of this company. My next step is putting up the landing page and a comparison along with my recommendations for alternatives to this company.

So, my question to you is, would you run this campaign? (Using the name of the company that gave you the lemon truck? Or, would you give them a chance to mitigate the situation by at least offering you a refund for the rental, to help offset your days of delays and additional hotel costs? (For my situation, keep in mind that I’m already over 2x the cost of the rental truck in fees that have accumulated because of the truck breaking down 4 times.)

What would you do? Launch the smear/affiliate campaign now or give them a chance?

Anyone other niches you could see this working in to make a profit? Would you have the pellets to actually do it?

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  1. PREPARE FOR LAUNCH SEQUENCE. the guy on United did it and it was a homerun. go for it im sure we’re all waiting anxiously

  2. Wouldn’t you do both? You want your money for the issues and you just came up with a great internet marketing idea so it’s a win-win.

  3. It is a superb idea but i think i would leave it as an idea.
    If they are a bigger company than you realize you could end up in court spending lots of money defending yourself.
    I guess its a different version of bum marketing and could be classed as bowel marketing.

  4. Sorry for the shitty road trip.
    I think the idea for negative reviews has potential. I personally prefer to avoid negative or fear based advertising, but not because it doesn’t work.

  5. I’m not sure on the legalities of smearing someone publicly even if it is a true story, however if the company gave a refund of the rental and the additional expenses incurred I would drop the matter. After that, the balls fall where they may, and some can be quite heavy. After all, people complain loudly on social media channels all the time about the large failures of companies – this is a large failure.

    Frankly I’m not sure I’d have the pellets to launch an entire site to smear a product I had a bad experience with. However without the story I don’t think it would market as well.

  6. Hey Brian,
    Sorry to hear you are leaving the Boston Area. Hope you like living on the left coast. San Diego is much nicer than L.A. by the way (lived there for a year).

    Was at the first AM202 Meetup you did last year, I guess you won’t be involved with those anymore, too bad.

    As far as running the campaign DO IT! Even if they mitigate it you could run it without disclosing the shitty company, just be sure to point out it wasn’t any of the one’s you recommend. You may even get better conversions this way as people may be afraid of going with a company you didn’t recommend for fear of ending up with your horror show company.

    Let us know how it turns out.

  7. Good story.
    I’d give them a chance to try to make up for the problems this truck rental caused you – your out of pocket expenses at least, if not a little extra for the hassles you went through – because shit happens sometimes. I’ve had minor nightmares with purchases myself, and sometimes the companies will make a decent effort in making it up to me.

    But if these guys don’t make it up to you, I would definitely ensure lots of people knew what happened. And since you’d be telling the truth, I don’t see why it would be a problem if you mentioned their competitors as an alternative.

    The only issue to keep in mind that you can’t give a fake review of those other companies if you haven’t actually used their services… and of course recommending those companies will be more effective if you can say you’ve actually used them.

    But yeah, I’m big on screwing someone or some company if they’ve done me wrong and figure I can’t do anything about it. :)

    Good luck!

  8. newjersey says:

    launch it immediately

  9. It might have been cheaper to buy a truck then sell it after the move.

  10. Just as an update, the company has agreed to issue a full refund.

    I’ve decided to leave that niche alone and go after another niche to avoid legal backlash.

    Good thing is, there are tons of niches to go after if you have a real horror story and the company doesn’t do anything to remedy the situation.

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