Unethical Marketing: Is This the Most Manipulative Version?

January 19, 2019

minute READ 

I’m so fed up with unethical marketing.

A few days ago, I signed up for someone’s email list. This person has been sending me emails, including about a course that I’m actually interested in taking at some near point.

Now, from one moment to the next, her emails turned to

“sign up now”

“special bonuses expiring tonight at midnight”

“only x hours left”

Which is fine, right? Of course, it’s okay to have a deadline for enrollment. Of course, it’s fine to have an early bird special.

I’ve used both of these for my recent course.

But is this really what it is?

I click on the link and there’s a countdown timer on the website.

But I’m also a bit suspicious because there’s nothing else indicating that there’s actually a hard enrollment deadline for the course (and not just an attempt to manipulate me into buying something I don’t want by appealing to people’s Fear of Missing Out.)

So, I open the same website from another browser.

Et voilà, no countdown timer! ?

(Which basically means that I could sign up for this person’s email list anytime and get the *super-special, today only* bonuses.)

Curiously enough, I signed up for another email list and somehow, this person also magically had enrollment closing a day or so after I signed up to the list.

Go figure…

Applying unnecessary pressure when there’s no actual deadline is a form of unethical marketing

This actually makes me less likely to take their courses. I think business can be a force for good (or should be). Integrity is so important for me. When people use manipulative marketing tactics, I just don’t buy it (pun intended).

I get that scarcity marketing works. But many things work that are ethically dubious. It doesn’t mean we need to embrace them.

For instance, here are a few people and business who market in completely ethical ways:

Steve Mattus from Actual Infinity

Heart of Business

Alex Baisley

I have personal experience with them and think they’re awesome. No manipulation required.

I think for today, I’ll embrace JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out)

It feels good to not be manipulated. It feels good to take my power back. It feels good to make my own choices.

FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) comes from a feeling of scarcity. 
JOMO (the Joy of Missing Out) comes from a feeling of abundance.

At least for today, I’ll embrace the latter.

And I really hope that more and more people will become aware of these scarcity-based tactics so that they stop working. Bye-bye unethical marketing.

And now, I’d love to hear from you:

What’s a form of manipulative marketing you can’t stand?
Who are some people/businesses you know that don’t use manipulative marketing?
If you’re a business owner, what do you do to market ethically?

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About the author

Bere is the founder of Leader for Good. She's a former lawyer and academic who moved from Germany to the United States where she started her own business. Today, Bere loves helping her coaching clients and students connect with their passion and purpose. You can find out more about her coaching business at www.workyoulovecoach.com.

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  • Thanks, Bere. The fake deadline is a turnoff for me, too.

    Another practice I’m aware of at some self-development seminars takes it to another level. (Thankfully I haven’t seen it done myself.) At free or entry level seminars, they take participants through an intense process, bringing difficult to emotions to the surface… then rather than bringing closure, they hard sell a high-priced package to the now extremely vulnerable participants.

    This would be an automatic no for me – I could not support, in any way, a person who engaged in this.

    • Yes, thanks for bringing up that tactic! That’s so manipulative and unethical.

      Also, as a side note: I love your name, “Procrastination Paramedic.” I think that’s such a funny and effective way to brand, without any manipulation.

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