Marketing philosophy: keep it real or go home

Modern marketing practices are unacceptable.

By modern, I mean going back at least a few hundred years until now.

Actually, more than a few hundred. The first time humans beings started figuring out how their minds work, I am sure there was someone ready to exploit that knowledge for profit.

And therein lies the primary problem with marketing, advertising, and promotion. Exploitation.

I’ve always had an aversion to people trying to sell me things.

My anus tightens when I walk past the kiosks at a shopping mall. “Please don’t talk to me, please don’t talk to me…”

Why don’t I want them to talk to me?

Because the only reason they care about me is for my money (Ha, the joke is on them).

People are important. Livelihood is important. Relationships are important.

Money is a tool that can support livelihood, but it should not take precedence over people and relationships.

But a person selling sunglasses or nail polish at the mall is not exceedingly devious or exploitative.

What really boils me is marketers who use psychological tactics to consciously manipulate people into making choices they would not otherwise make.

I see this so much in the realm of personal branding, a field that I have focused on learning about for the past year.

One tactic is to go on and on about what they’re selling, doing their best to speak to their audience’s needs enough to keep you watching their video or reading their landing page.

Sometimes these presentations go on seemingly forever. Well-made ones will keep you watching for long enough that you’ve invested so much time that it seems like it would be a waste of time to stop watching…

Same principle as being in a dysfunctional relationship that you’ve put years of energy, effort, and money into. Not everyone will get hung up on the investment aspect and stay in that train-wreck relationship, but I’ve done that before. Lots of people do.

Marketers know this. They rub their hands together like thirsty little flies, and play a game with your emotions.

They don’t tell you the cost until the ass-end of the video. Or maybe they don’t even tell you then. “Click here for more information.”

And usually before revealing the price point, they will let you know it’s worth thousands of dollars.

But since you’re a special kind of schmuck, it’s yours for only $69.99.

No, wait, you’re SUPREMELY special. You can have it for like $4.02.

But only if you act today. Actually, only if you buy it within the next 20 minutes.

Otherwise, you’ll have to pay like three grand, like all the non-special people do.

Again, this is nothing new. I’ve seen this stuff happen on Home Shopping Network since childhood.

It didn’t set right with me then. It still doesn’t. Because it’s inauthentic AF.

This all brings us to the scarcity principle, which is essentially a pressure tactic.

Restrict the amount of time a consumer has to buy.

Restrict the supply to increase demand.

Recently, I encountered a clever example of this from an entrepreneur. Hell, I’ll name names. Mike Dillard.

I discovered Mike through a paid Facebook promotion that advertised a free online course on building mailing lists.

Since I was curious both about learning about mailing lists and also observing the ways that people present these types of courses, I signed up.

I only made it a half hour or so into his presentation before jumping ship. Why?

Because it was quickly made clear that only a bare minimum of value was being offered through the presentation. The free course was establishing a foundation for Mike’s paid workshops.

Which makes sense, from an entrepreneur’s perspective.

The problem is, the free course wasn’t advertised that way at all.

It was advertised as a valuable solution for those wishing to start lucrative email lists.

It was not advertised as a marketing spiel for paid products and services.

You could say that should have been expected. And in our current culture, you’re right.

But it shouldn’t have to be expected. Time is precious. Honesty and openness are valuable gifts to offer the consumer in exchange for their time and attention.

And I haven’t even touched on Mike Dillard’s long-game with the scarcity principle.

Since he is his own product in a way, he applied the scarcity principle to himself.

In the intro to his course, he went into his background as an entrepreneur and email marketer. He recounted his tale of failure after failure, and how eventually he got it right.

And he didn’t want to focus on email marketing anymore, that he would soon turn all of his energy and attention towards an initiative to reduce humanity’s detrimental impact on the environment.

BUT FIRST. Before he goes off to save the world, he wanted to share all of his email marketing knowledge with aspiring entrepreneurs.

He said the course I was viewing was the last course he’d ever do on this subject. This was it. Absorb his enlightenment now, or miss my chance forever.

Okay. Whatever. That was anywhere from four to six months ago. I still get emails from Mike Dillard about email marketing courses.

I shouldn’t be too hard on Mike. Maybe he changed his mind. That’s allowed.

I doubt it though. He’s obviously a seasoned veteran in the field of manipulation.

So are advertisers on nearly every stratum of society.

Some people make their livings designing appealing packaging for toxic, carcinogenic, nutritionally-worthless pseudo-foods. Every color on the box, the words used to describe the product, and other words selectively omitted, are all carefully selected to draw you in.

This makes me sick. Sometimes I have anxiety attacks at grocery stores because of how sick it makes me.

And some people will say, “That’s just the way things are.”

“Everyone has to make a living.”

“It doesn’t matter if they try to manipulate us; it’s up to us to make our own decisions.”

And so on.

Well, fine. Then be OK with it. But I’m not.

And this is not all just some directionless, bitter rant about society. I am not just venting frustrations here.

As an entrepreneur and writer with plans to produce online courses, these are issues I need to come face-to-face with and assess my values on.

Sometimes I come to terms with certain online marketing tactics. Earlier this year, I experimented with automated DMs to new followers on Twitter. Up until then, I thought of automated responses as the devil in its worst form.

What changed my mind? Well, I received a valuable automated message from entrepreneur Yann Girard after following him. This led to me reading one of his books for free. It was a wonderful book that inspired me to do some great work.

I realized that automated messages can be a blessing when they are truthful, authentic, and more focused on providing value than extracting resources from the recipient.

I realized, there may be a right way to do some of these other things that I currently loathe.

The keys for me are transparency and truth.

My approach to marketing is to let you see all the gears and levers moving in the background. No hidden long-games. No devious manipulations.

Do I hope you’ll at some point exchange money for what I offer?

Yes. Of course.

But maybe you’ll have a need or desire for a product or service I offer, but not the money.

To me, it’s inhumane to prevent you from getting what you’re looking for due to lack of money.

You’re real. Money is a tool.

Wellbeing of living beings is the real bottom line, not money.

Capitalistic approaches to life disregard that mentality. Capitalism is inflexible to people’s needs and the unique demands of our lives.

So, flexibility is important for me. Meeting people’s needs, accepting whatever they have to offer in exchange for services rendered. Even if it’s just a smile and a few thankful words.

At my core, I trust that generosity and compassion are never pointless.

Helping people get their needs met without demand for a specific direct level of reciprocation is a powerful form of contributing to the evolution of society and humanity.

Will adherence to these values ultimately prevent me from making an economic living?

Only one way to find out.

Also published on Medium.