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Is Ethical Marketing Possible?

Good written with evil and evil written with good

Written byJay Sennett

Jay Sennett is the founder and managing director of Holy Gusto Marketing and Homofactus Press. Holy Gusto Marketings helps authors, publishers, and creatives transform their email marketing into more sales.

March 18, 2021

We have Edward Bernays to thank for the sorry, sleazy state of marketing today. He created the industry of public relations and bequeathed to us our ideas about propaganda.

It’s all spin is a term Bernays might’ve concocted. His uncle, Sigmund Freud, thought he understood what drove human behavior. Bernays capitalized on Freud’s knowledge and exploited it to manipulate us into buying things we don’t need.

Even worse, he manipulated us into believing unfacts as facts, all to make money and because he wanted to see if he could.

We now believe all marketers and PR folks lie, coerce, manipulate and bamboozle us. Most of us also believe they’ve increased human cynicism.

It’s hard to believe otherwise. When an industry assumes as a foundational tenet that the average human being possesses the IQ of a fly, why would we trust marketing?

Relationships drive marketing

Sure, they may attempt to hoodwink us. But, and I think this a very important but, they need us more than we need them.

The fact that they need us underscores a fundamental belief at Holy Gusto.

Relationships drive marketing.

Yes, advertising and pr and marketing firms deploy shady tactics. But they direct their efforts towards us, other human beings.

They may think we’re all sheep, but we’re still in relationship with them, and they with us.

Kind, considerate marketers put the customer first

This begs the question: can marketers be kind, and even ethical? Yes, we absolutely believe we can be kind and ethical marketers.

Ethical marketing puts the customer at the center of all our strategies and tactics.

We’re the same as the Bernays groupies in this regard. But we differ in our positive psychology: we believe people are fundamentally good and responsible. Our tactics should thus be free from all efforts to trick them.

They, like us, are human beings, worthy of dignity and respect.

When marketing respects the customer, truly respects them, what does marketing become?

What can it mean to market when we don’t use scarcity as a tactic to make a person buy our product?

Give people a chance to care

In an ethical and considerate world, marketing is our opportunity to give strangers a chance to care about our product or service.

Marketing is mutual care.

We care about our customers.They have a problem we want to solve, not just for the money, but because suffering is a terrible state to be in.

I think it’s fair to say ethical marketers tend more towards a social work worldview than a more stereotypical capitalist worldview. We want to aid and assist.They want to finagle and hustle.

Invest time, time, and more time

People devoted to finagling others (capitalist or not) seek to make the quick buck.

I recently participated in a live conference call on how to be an IG marketer. The obligatory sell arrived at the end of the call. I don’t personally have a problem with that.

This marketer, however, pushed scarcity pricing to the extreme. Most marketers give people 2-5, sometimes 7 days, to lock in the best possible price.

This marketer? 30 minutes.

She also exploited the fake pricing model where 1 x 3 = 6.

“I’ve created this original module for 495. Now I have three. It should cost 1485.

But, it doesn’t! The pricing is only 495, for all three!”

I never believe a marketer who claims to have created that many 100% value added modules. These types of marketers have an original module with say 12 points.

They remove 8 points, leaving 4 in the first module and make the other modules center around these 8 points that used to be part of the first module.

The other shady tactic was an original price to join the exclusive FB group of 400.00. That day, of course, it was only 100.00.

Of course this marketer made several thousand dollars off quick sales.

But did she make respectable, ethical decisions? I don’t think so.

Did she offer her products from a place of compassion and concern? Hardly. When you have a 30-minute countdown clock in the right sidebar, there’s nothing ethical about making people feel like their world will end once the clock reaches 00:00.

The bomb always goes off in terrorist movies at 00:00 and so does the binds of morality when a marketer needs to get rich quick.

Ethical marketers care more about the person than the dollar sign. Ethical marketers know the best customers take time to cultivate because the best human relationships always take time.

The marketer hawking her IG classes? She’s like the person on the first date who tells you what to do, what she thinks, how awesome she is and why you’re a fool if you don’t go out with her again.

She’s like a fast food version of marketing. Quick but with little nutritional value in the end.

The rest of us? Let’s call it slow relationships (like slow food, only with people.) We prefer to take our time getting to know a client, to listen more than talk, ask questions and act like we care about this new person in front of us.

Why do you sell the thing you sell?

When we’re confident about and believe in ourselves making friends seems so much easier.

When we know who we are and what we’re about, we can take a genuine interest in others.

The same goes for marketing.

Do you know why you’re selling what you’re selling?

I mean really know? Think about a product or service you’ve purchased that absolutely wowed you.

You felt seen, yes? And understood?

A mechanic’s shop in my neighborhood had a female customer come in with complaints that she’d spent several hundreds of dollars at another mechanic.

Of course, the other mechanic failed to fix the problem.

Think about this woman for a moment. She’s already concerned she’s been fleeced. Was this mechanic incompetent? Did he think he could take advantage of her because she is a woman?

She now has to take her car to anther shop where she might suffer a similar fate. Our hero mechanic shop found the source of the problem, a fix that cost less than 100 dollars, including labor.

When she picked up the car, the hero mechanic shop told her they’d help her craft a letter to the shifty mechanic demanding a full refund.

Which she got.

Do you think this woman’s life was transformed?

Do you think the hero shop gained a customer for life?

When has a product or service transformed you?

You want to help people or change their lives

Transformational businesses want to be of radical assistance to people.

They understand their customers, their hopes and fears.

They know the outcome they sell is a promise to the customer. One they will keep because they are an ethical, honest business.

Imagine their pain points, really, really imagine them

The transformational product or service you experienced probably fixed a problem you knew you had, and maybe another one you didn’t.

In the case of our hero mechanic shop, they fixed the customer’s immediate problem, the one she knew she had. Then they helped her with a secondary, momentarily less pressing problem: getting her money back.

The shop went the extra mile, did more than the right thing and established their ethics and morals, all for less than $100.00

Your product or service is a compassionate cure

They offered the woman a compassionate cure. We know you got sucker punched by the other mechanic. We’re mad, too. So we’re gonna help you get your money back. (Because some people might be too ashamed to ask for a refund).

What you do is make people’s lives better. You see others not as a means to an end, like the IG marketer above, but as ends in themselves.

You offer a better, more compassionate future for other people. Ethical marketing centered on compassionate, honest interactions with your current clients and potential clients will win in the long run.

Every time.

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