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Definition of Bait and Switch

Bait and switch is a deceptive marketing tactic where a company attracts potential customers by advertising a certain product, service, or benefit at a low price. Once customers are interested, the original offer is no longer available, and they are presented with a different, often more expensive option. This dishonest approach is intended to lure customers in under false pretenses, potentially leading to negative consumer reactions and a damaged reputation for the company.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Bait and Switch” would be: beɪt ænd swɪtʃHere’s the breakdown: – “Bait” is pronounced as “beɪt,”- “and” is pronounced as “ænd,”- “Switch” is pronounced as “swɪtʃ.”

Key Takeaways

  1. Bait and Switch is a deceptive marketing strategy where customers are initially drawn in by an attractive offer that is later replaced with a less desirable one.
  2. It often involves advertising a low-priced, high-quality product or service, which is unavailable or in limited supply, in order to persuade customers to buy a more expensive alternative.
  3. Bait and Switch is considered unethical and is illegal in many jurisdictions. It can damage a company’s reputation and lead to regulatory actions or lawsuits.

Importance of Bait and Switch

The digital marketing term “Bait and Switch” is important because it highlights an unethical marketing practice where businesses initially present an appealing offer to attract potential customers, only to replace it with a less favorable option after capturing their interest.

This deceptive tactic not only undermines consumer trust but may also lead to negative reviews, a tarnished brand image, and potential legal consequences if caught engaging in false advertising.

By understanding the concept of bait and switch, digital marketers can be more responsible and ensure they prioritize transparency and authenticity in their campaigns and strategies, ultimately promoting a positive relationship between businesses and their audiences.


Bait and Switch is a disingenuous marketing strategy that aims to lure potential customers by advertising an appealing product or service at a significantly low price, only to have the customer realize that the initial offer is either unavailable or comes with hidden terms, ultimately leading them to make a different, often more expensive, purchase.

The primary purpose of this tactic is to drive consumer interest and increase sales by enticing them with an attractive yet unattainable offer, thereby capitalizing on their curiosity and willingness to explore alternative options presented by the seller.

While the Bait and Switch method may yield short-term gains for businesses by capturing unsuspecting consumers, it can significantly damage a company’s reputation and customer trust in the long run.

Many countries and jurisdictions have enacted consumer protection laws that deem this practice illegal, further emphasizing the importance of maintaining an ethical, transparent, and customer-centric approach to digital marketing.

It is crucial for businesses to cultivate a reliable brand image and nurture positive customer relationships, which will ultimately lead to sustainable growth and a loyal customer base.

Examples of Bait and Switch

Bait and Switch is a deceptive marketing tactic where advertisers lure customers with attractive offers, only to replace them with more expensive or different products when customers attempt to purchase the initially advertised product. Here are three real-world examples:

Electronic Store: An electronic store advertises a high-quality television at an incredibly low price. When customers arrive at the store, they find out that the advertised television is sold out, but the salesperson guides them towards a more expensive, similar television with additional features they supposedly cannot miss. The customer ends up buying the more expensive television, while the initial low-priced offer was simply a bait to get them in the store.

Online Retail: An e-commerce website promotes a popular smartphone with a limited-time discount. However, when customers click on the promotion and add the item to their cart, they are either informed that the product is out of stock or that the promotion has ended, even if it was in stock or the promotion was supposed to be ongoing. Suddenly, customers are provided with a wide selection of related smartphones available at their full prices or with a much smaller discount than initially advertised.

Car Dealership: A car dealership advertises a limited-time sale on a specific model with a highly discounted price. When interested buyers arrive at the dealership, salespeople may inform them that the advertised model is no longer in stock, but they recommend a more expensive model with better features. The initial advertisement was simply a tactic to get customers to visit the dealership, only to be upsold to a higher-priced vehicle.

FAQ – Bait and Switch

1. What is bait and switch?

A bait and switch is a deceptive marketing and sales tactic where a seller lures in customers with the promise of an attractive deal on a product or service, only to reveal that the initial offering is not available, and then pressures the customer into purchasing a more expensive or less desirable alternative.

2. Is bait and switch illegal?

Yes, bait and switch is illegal in most jurisdictions as it is considered a deceptive and fraudulent business practice. Laws and regulations vary depending on the location, so it is important to be aware of your local consumer protection laws when dealing with such tactics.

3. How do I avoid falling for a bait and switch scam?

To avoid falling for a bait and switch scam, be vigilant and do extensive research on the products and services you are interested in and the companies offering them. Look for reviews and testimonials, and be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true. If a company says an offer is not available anymore, insist on the advertised deal or walk away and find a more reputable seller.

4. What should I do if I have been a victim of a bait and switch?

If you have been a victim of bait and switch, gather as much evidence as possible, such as advertisements, receipts, or correspondence with the seller. Report the incident to your local consumer protection agency and consider consulting an attorney to discuss your rights and legal options.

5. Can I take legal action against a company that used bait and switch tactics on me?

Depending on the laws in your jurisdiction, you may be able to take legal action against a company that uses bait and switch tactics. Consult with an attorney who specializes in consumer protection laws to help you navigate the legal process and determine your best course of action.

Related Digital Marketing Terms

  • Deceptive Advertising
  • False Promotions
  • Clickbait
  • Misleading Sales Tactics
  • Consumer Fraud

Sources for More Information

  • Investopedia –
  • Federal Trade Commission –
  • BusinessDictionary –
  • Marketing91 –