With the iPad, Apple has a significant lead in the market for tablet
computing. But companies like Samsung aren’t prepared to cede the market
to Apple.

Samsung’s would-be iPad killer is the Android-based Galaxy Tab, which
debuted late last year. It hasn’t dethroned the iPad, but Samsung is
launching a 10.1″ version of the Tab later this year that sports a
faster processor and the Android Honeycomb OS.

The launch of this new Galaxy Tab, however, may not be off to the best start. Last week, Technologizer’s Harry McCracken published a post questioning the legitimacy of video interviews (billed as “true-life stories“) Samsung supposedly conducted with “busy, successful New Yorkers” given the opportunity to test drive the new Tab.

McCracken’s photographic evidence suggests that three of those interviewed weren’t exactly who they were claimed to be, and may have been paid actors.

If McCracken’s suspicions are confirmed, you can be sure that Samsung will have a lot of egg on its face, perhaps scarring the company’s competitive credibility amongst tech-savvy consumers in the tablet arena.

Why would Samsung, or any other company for that matter, risk such a thing? Unfortunately, despite the dangers, faking reviews, testimonials, etc. can still be appealing, even in a day and age when anyone can play the role of super sleuth using Google and Facebook.

When you feel the need to create the impression that customers love what you’re offering, and fast, faking and astroturfing seem like a good idea. Building a legitimate track record of customer satisfaction may not be difficult if you have a good product or service, but it takes time.

Of course, even though trying to “fake it until you make it” is an approach just about anyone can try doesn’t mean that it’s easy to pull off successfully. If your product or service sucks, a bunch of fake reviews isn’t likely to help for very long.

Case in point: last year, I criticized reputation startup Unvarnished (now Honestly.com). In response to my criticism, I caught a family member of the founder astroturfing, and pointed out that this didn’t look like an isolated incident. Today, it looks like the market as a whole largely felt the same way about Unvarnished as I did. No amount of astroturfing could have convinced the market that this company was on the right path.

Which highlights the worst thing about faking and astroturfing: it encourages companies to drink their own kool-aid. The most valuable feedback companies can obtain is honest feedback. If the market tells you that your product or service needs improvement, the best response is usually one that involves using the feedback to improve. Ignoring what the market is saying is a recipe for failure.

The lesson here: effective marketing highlights and accentuates a product or service’s best characteristics. It doesn’t create them, nor should it be asked to. Ever.