One day, she told me one fact that she believed to be unalienable: “People buy because of guilt, and because of fear, and because of anxiety. You should make sure all your messaging focuses on this.”
At first, I thought, “Wow, she’s got way more experience than me, I better listen.”
That night, I didn’t sleep.
For the next week or two, I was anguished. My whole career plan – to be a marketer – seemed inherently immoral with this “sage” advice. And I soon realised: If all my job consisted of was to use trickery to persuade them to buy more stuff, then marketing wasn’t an industry I wanted any part of.
Within a couple months of that advice, I quit that job.
Emotions matter… more than you think
Emotions do matter – but not in the way some people tell you.
Still to this day, so-called experts perpetuate the depressing notion that you have to use negative emotions to make people buy more stuff. “Don’t worry about it,” they tell you. “Everyone’s doing it, so if you can’t beat’em…” they justify. “Maybe it’s not nice, but it works,” they rationalise.
That is a total cop-out. It’s that nihilistic philosophy, perpetuated by the boss I mention above, nearly led me to packing in a career in marketing.
But then I met other marketing leaders, and realised that a few bad apples don’t have to ruin the bunch. That’s when I learned that marketing and morality are not mutually exclusive.
When we founded Phrasee in 2015, we decided that we were going to market differently. Of course, we do this with our own marketing – anyone who gets our newsletter knows what I’m talking about. But importantly, we decided that were going to encourage our customers to market differently, too.
And we’ve learned a lot in the last three and a half years.
The good news? The *vast* majority of marketers are doing what they can to ensure their messaging doesn’t detrimentally affect people.
The bad news? Some people are still focusing on exploitive marketing tactics. And this NEEDS to stop.
For example… some people are still actively encouraging the use of negative emotions – like fear, guilt and anxiety – to sell more stuff.
This will never do. We, as marketers, are better than that. We have a moral responsibility to ensure what we do doesn’t just pressure people into buying more stuff. It’s bad for the mental health of your customers – and, also, it’s probably not that good for your own ability to sleep at night.
See, using negative emotions to target people don’t just reflect badly on the marketer. It also has a real effect on your customers.
It’s not news that mental health is a pervasive problem in modern society. And – whether we talk about it or not, mental health issues like depression and social anxiety can be exacerbated by spurious use of negative emotions in marketing campaigns. If a person is already in a heightened state of anxiety or low mood, then they’re likely more susceptible to high-pressure tactics.
I don’t think that most marketers are doing this necessarily intentionally (although some are). But, I believe that using fear, guilt, and anxiety-based tactics to make people experience severe levels of anxiety and purchase products under duress is a very disingenuous way to wield marketing’s true power.
Marketing is changing
Today, in 2018, more than ever people are holding brands to account for their messaging. And consumers are expecting it more and more.
Chris Walts, who’s the Social Strategy Director at Ogilvy UK, echoes this sentiment:
“Consumers are prioritising where they give their attention, which in turn has led to a scepticism of being sold to. To cut through the tremendous amount of the noise and ‘fakenews’, brands are learning that honesty, transparency, and utility are key. Brands that understand how to provide value – through entertainment, utility, or inspiration – are the ones consumers remember.“ (Source)
They say that if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything
It’s high time that marketers took a stand.
It’s high time we marketers stand up, join forces, and say “NO!” to exploiting our customers’ mental health for short-term gains.
But where do you start? Today, October 10th 2018, World Mental Health Day, we are launching a guide to start the conversation.
It’s called Emotions Matter.
We don’t claim to have all the answers. But we do have some ideas to share, to at least kickstart the conversation.
Note: you don’t have to register to download it. This isn’t about Phrasee selling more stuff. This is about something different. This is about sharing our philosophy of marketing the right way.
Emotions matter… more than you think
We, as marketers, need to take responsibility for our actions. We need to consider the impact our actions have on people’s mental health.
And we NEED to stop using fear, guilt and anxiety-based messaging to make a quick buck. Surely your customers deserve better than that.
You can find Phrasee at the Festival of Marketing 2018, Oct 10-11, in the Festival Village, and discussing emotional marketing case studies on day two at 14.45.
Great article. Totally agree, also because selling based on negative emotions annoys shoppers who notice it. E.g. all the negative alerts, about the risk of missing out, on booking.com.
But, ironically, isn’t your blog post selling based on guilt?