Here’s one for you. Do you think it’s ethical to persuade someone to do or buy something, even if it’s something they don’t want? Like so many things in marketing, I think the answer is a resounding “it depends.” I know, spoken like a true consultant. …But hear me out.
Ethics in marketing is really an area of applied ethics which deals with the moral principles (yes we have them, why do you ask?) behind the operation and regulation of marketing. This area covers fun stuff like: invasion of privacy, stereotyping, targeting (and re-targeting) the vulnerable, excluding potential customers from the market and pricing ethics.
When you think hard about how to persuade human beings you realize it’s not going to be easy. Getting into and out of consumers’ heads is a very messy business because our brains most of the time resemble Times Square on New Years Eve. It’s lit-up, exciting and electric, but watch where you step. (gross).
The problem with the lion’s share of marketing approaches I see is they lack actual thought and are treated more like a to-do list of boxes to check rather than a series of steps that lead to the goal of persuasion. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A little thought, a little empathy and application of the The Golden Rule will get you quite far. Here’s a few tips —
- Understand from the beginning that your presence is neither requested nor welcomed. Your message is an interruption. Now, with that in mind, earn your place in their minds and it better be great. (or don’t send it out).
- Always take long-term relationships over short-term sales
- Look for ways to attract people to your brand and not have to interrupt them so much.
- If it feels wrong to you, just don’t do it. Marketers were given this intuition for a reason.
- Listen to your consumers twice as much as you talk. Your insight about how to serve them will most likely come from them and the tools we have today allow you to listen like never before.
Dale Carnegie said, “a man convinced against his will, holds the same opinion still.” There’s a whole lotta truth right there for us marketers.
Persuasion is the very subtle and gentle art of getting your audience to do and think the things that will benefit your brand. But there is an ethical and dare I say “respectful” way to do it that will get you what everyone really wants — strong long-term relationships leading to ongoing business and brand loyalty.