No, this isn't a "gee, um, is it wrong to make up testimonials" question. I hope to address the issue on a somewhat more sophisticated level.
Bear in mind I am talking about moral and ethical standards, not FTC regs and laws.
Let me lay down some points to ponder, and then I'd like to hear your opinions on the matter.
1. Review-Affiliate Testimonials
So, to start off, here's an acceptable practice: you come up with a product, wrangle some JV partners and launch. Your JV partners notice you lack testimonials and kindly offer to write one for you - hey, they get to show support *and* get a linkback out of it. It's win-win. We've all been there.
So now you have a beautifully-written sales page filled with smiling faces of IMers endorsing your product. Superb.
Problem is, most of them are also actively promoting it as your affiliates. They have a vested interest in your conversion rate going up. You might go as far as to suggest that some of them might colour you a brighter shade of pink than they would otherwise.
My question - given that the reading prospect is not informed that a certain testimonial (or testimonials) comes from someone with a financial interest in a higher conversion rate... what is the moral/ethical difference between that and you just fabricating a testimonial?
Obviously, one is legal and one is not - but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about moral and ethical concerns only. I'm also not saying it's exactly the same thing morally - but it's something to think about.
2. PLR Testimonials
You buy a PLR product and, like any such self-respecting offering, it comes with a ready made "killer" sales letter. You scan it to assess the cost of reparation and jump for joy: lo and behold, it even comes with ready-made testimonials.
Never mind the fact that you ain't got 'em on file if anyone should ever ask... you can't even know if they're real or if you're going to be rolling with someone else's fiction. Do you use them; masquerade them as your own?
Allow me to further develop the idea with two auxiliary points (and then I'll be done):
a) Turning a blind eye to the possibility of the testimonial being a fake.
Specifically, does this "plausible deniability" isolate you morally from the responsibility you bear if the testimonial is indeed made-up?
And *if so* - i.e. if you are morally protected... and... as it happens the testimonial turns out to be a fabrication - what is then the moral difference between using it and making it up yourself?
Is your lack of knowledge all that stands between you and moral culpability?
b) Product vs publisher testimonials.
The substance of the testimonial, in my opinion, comes into play *even if* you think that all the other considerations I've raised are negligible.
There is a difference - at least as far as I am concerned - between the two following scenarios:
i) I take
"John, I love 'Ultimate Weedkilling Secrets' - the first day I used it I killed all the weeds in my garden."
and turn it to
"Gil-Ad, I love 'Ultimate Weedkilling Secrets' - the first day I used it I killed all the weeds in my garden."
ii) I take
"John is the end-all weedkilling expert. I'd trust him to kill any weed."
and I turn it to
"Gil-Ad is the end-all weedkilling expert. I'd trust him to kill any weed."
In my opinion even if example (i) is somehow acceptable, (ii) is not for one simple reason - example (i) still applies to the PLR product being sold... but (ii) no longer applies to the person doing the selling.
I welcome contrasting opinions. What do you guys think?