Let’s talk about ethical marketing | GB52

Let’s talk about ethical marketing | GB52

What is ethical marketing? What does it mean? What doesn't it mean? And are you afraid of the wrong thing? Lately, there's been a new flavor to the ethical marketing and selling conversation happening amongst small business owners and marketers around what is ethical,...

You SHOULD be afraid to speak your mind. We all should.

I read a blog post last week that a human-I-semi-know (friend is a massive overstatement for most of the people I’m connected to) wrote. She was nonplussed about how the ethics police are basically just making everything harder than it needs to be with all their (our?) oppressive integrity nonsense.

It bothered me. Good people read her stuff. And it was just too damn much to not speak up about.

So I did. On the socials. In the usual places. Many discussions. New connections. Lots of people nodding and checking their contact lists for accidental support of harmful nonsense purveyors.

And a request to say more in a blog post. So here we are.

The interesting thing about the post was that in a slightly different light, I might have agreed with some of her ideas.

At its core, her post lamented the ethics police and how ethics were being weaponized (against her – which was the well-layered problem areas of said post) and how she was no longer going to live in fear of saying the wrong thing (apparently, according to the post, her PoC friend said it was ok to do whatever now – so she’s covered in the woke department, I guess). I can feel a lot of this. Many of us can, I’m sure.

But I’m only on board with the idea that it’s hard to hold that fear of saying and doing the wrong thing if we can all agree on the idea that that is a good thing. If it’s the right fear.

We’ll get back to that in a bit.

First, why I got all ragey…

A pile of shit is still a pile of shit even if everyone shits.

She enumerated several common marketing tactics oft maligned by us mean “ethical marketers”. Countdown timers, using emotional triggers, false scarcity, pay-up-front discounts, etc… You know, the usual suspects. Then she told her not-insignificant-sized audience over whom she wields a not-insignificant amount of power that it was absolutely fine to rationalize deploying tactics that make other humans feel like crap.

She made manipulative tactics mostly developed by men to sell more shit to women a totally fine thing to do because they are the things that work. Then she decried that doing otherwise is self-censorship, calling it ‘internalized patriarchy’ in some truly, epicly bananas logic. Essentially saying that there is just no other way to make money, so it’s fine. As long as you mean well.

Or something.

Being that I have spent 15 years (stable and financially thriving) not poking pain points, not creating false scarcity, never offering pay-up-front discounts, and not rationalizing the myriad other tactics that are legit shortcuts to success at the cost of other people’s agency and free will – I feel well-equipped to raise my hand with a hearty, “Nuh Uh.”

It is wildly irresponsible and unabashedly self-serving to tell thousands of people who trust your expertise to guide their lives, money, and livelihoods that it is fine to just ignore all the people banging the ethics drum because your money comes first.

Because that’s what the world needs less of: empathy. Right.

Like we are over here shutting down overpriced coaches and online marketers left and right with all our big mean ethical nonsense or something.

If only.

If you seriously think that ‘most effective selling tactics are no-go for ethical selling’ – it’s because you’re a. Bad at them and should absolutely learn how to do them better. Or b. Your product/content is trash and the only way to make a lot of money selling crap is by arm-twisting the masses. Because that is fucking ridiculous, completely untrue, and profoundly lazy.

Pushing on pain points causes harm by definition. I mean, it is baked right in there. By doing it, you are INCREASING PAIN. Tell me again how that’s ok?

Urgency and scarcity are only effective because they trigger your nervous system. They poke at your lizard brain and cause fear-feeding, impulsive decisions.

Is that the client you want? Triggered and afraid?

Pay up front discounts tax the broke, the poor, and the bootstrappers. Fucking duh. And they are totally unnecessary. When your program is good, people don’t leave. And monthly income is a good thing, last I checked. So why incentivize paying up front during a launch unless you are trying to inflate launch numbers, push people to not think too hard about buying, or constrain refund requests?

How you do business matters. And none of us get it 100% right. But giving permission to keep doing the same tired crap that has made generations poorer and more powerless is enraging.

“Compassion is hard. So I’m not going to do it.”

And then she compared ethical marketing to Purity Culture in disguise.

Because she feels so censored by her fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.

Barf.

Comparing efforts to decrease the harmfulness of commerce (arguably one of the most harmful forces in existence) to purity culture – a sociological concept based on real harm and constraint perpetrated by mostly powerful men done to millions (because it bummed you out to have to contemplate more before publishing?) is insulting to their pain.

Me pointing out that the use of metaphor seeped in decades of trauma to illustrate a marketing point has nothing to do with me being an Ethics Officer of the Law and everything to do with holding another human being accountable for being a shithead. You wanna be a dick? Fine. Do that. But people are equally allowed to yell at you for it. That’s how it works.

If you’re afraid of that, you have the wrong kind of fear.

That is the fear of the narcissist.

Not afraid of doing harm.

Not afraid of hurting others.

Afraid of getting called out. Canceled.

Afraid of losing money.

That, my friends, is the wrong kind of fear.

We should all be afraid before we open our mouths. But not of the harm that might come to us, but of the harm we might bring to other people. Maybe we could all do with a little more self-censorship. A little more fear. A little more clean, consent-based selling.

A little more abundant and intentional willingness to make ENOUGH instead of as much money as possible.

Because if you can’t figure out how to express yourself and make a living without knowingly hurting people, then you shouldn’t.

Your good intentions and warm fuzzies of being ‘welcoming to all’ mean fuck-all to the people standing at the velvet rope alone and in pain.

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