Is It Wrong To Focus On Negative Emotions In Marketing?

24 Sep, 2021 By Bobby Klinck
Is It Wrong To Focus On Negative Emotions In Marketing?

This post is based on a podcast discussion I had with my friend Zach Spuckler. We covered a lot of ground in that conversation. You can hear the full episode here

A lot of marketers these days use negative emotions like fear and guilt to get consumers to buy. The problem is that such strategies raise ethical questions.

Negative emotion marketing involves preying on the negative emotions of people to convince them to buy a product or a service. It’s like telling people that they only have two options – stay stuck or buy your product or service to solve their problems.

You don’t have to resort to negative emotion marketing because there are other ways to get people to buy from you. You can be honest right from the start. Tell them the price and why you priced it that way. Instead of selling and convincing, you should consider inviting them to take action toward a solution.

Bait And Switch

There’s also a problem with the bait and switch tactic in online marketing. You convince people to sign up for your webinar, for example, because you promised to offer all kinds of valuable information. But really this is just a cover to sell something. Not meeting the expectations of the people who trust you to sign up will make it difficult for you to transition to a sale.

The Problem With Using Guilt And Shame

In addition to bait and switch, there’s also a lot of manipulation in the online marketing space.

The people who use the guilt and shame method will frame stuff up right from the start as a way to get a commitment from their target client. They’ll use that commitment against them at the end of their sales pitch. It helps them be in a position where they can shame people if they say no to their offer. 

You should avoid using guilt and shame to get people to buy your product because they will end up regretting their decision and ask for a refund, which is not good for business.

Manipulator Versus Influencer

What’s the difference between manipulation and influence? A manipulator plays on a consumer’s negative emotions to elicit compliance. In terms of marketing, if the consumer doesn’t take your offer, the manipulative marketer will make them feel negative emotions like guilt, foolishness, selfishness, naiveté, or anything that will force them to give in.

A manipulator knows what buttons to push. He’ll find ways to make the customer capitulate to his desires even if it goes against his better judgment. This is a very common strategy used within the online marketing space.

Ask yourself this question: Are your marketing strategies aimed at serving your audience or your bottom line? 

If you’re a manipulator, then you’re someone who will do anything to get what you want.

For instance, let’s say your launch isn’t going the way you wanted. You’ll reach out to as many people as you can, strike up conversations, send personalized messages, and write private emails. People will think that you’re chasing them down because you need to get what you want.

Instead, what you should do is build relationships and authentic connections. This is how you become an influencer. 

So where do you draw the line between honesty and manipulation? How would you know if you’re being honest or if you’re trying to manipulate people to get what you want?

The answer lies in your true intention. Do you want to serve your audience or do you want to make more money?

Don’t Use Sleazy Marketing Tactics

Many businesses are using countdown timers in their opt-in pages because it creates a sense of urgency. So people rush in to sign up, but when the timer runs out, nothing happens. It’s just a way to get people to join in or buy. 

Aside from the countdown time, some say that there’s a limited number of units or slots available, even if it’s not true. They use this method to incentivize people so they feel the scarcity of the product or service. 

Basic human decency says you shouldn’t do that. But these days, it’s become the norm. You can protect your integrity and set yourself apart as a business owner by avoiding strategies that involve false scarcity or urgency. 

Inspiration-Based Marketing Is Better Than Fear-Based Marketing

Generally speaking, society at large is driven by fear instead of inspiration. Instead of scaring people, why don’t you inspire them to buy your product or service? 

Don’t be like those who believe in their product and think that there’s nothing wrong with manipulation since they’re operating with the highest good in mind. 

They will do all they can to sell their product without even considering if their target clients can afford them or not. They don’t take into account the situation of their customers. Ultimately, they’re just serving their interests.

The Importance Of Transparency

If you want to be an ethical marketer, you need to be transparent when you market something. If you offer a certain product or service, you need to let your client know what results they can expect based on their existing situation. You have to help them understand that results vary from one person to another. 

For example, a person who has a product idea, an email list, and a following of a hundred thousand on social media but doesn’t know how to launch will have different results from someone who’s starting from scratch.

There’s nothing wrong with that. You just have to be transparent. If you’re offering a program for $500, you also need to let people know what other expenses they can expect before they enroll. 

You wouldn’t want your clients to use all their money to sign up for your course only to find out that they don’t have enough cash to purchase software that they’ll need to use to complete the program. That’s why you need to be transparent from the outset.

You need to remember that it’s your obligation to tell your clients about all the stuff they will need to succeed and that includes all the associated costs. You maintain your credibility when you remain honest and transparent.

Success Differs From One Person To Another

Oftentimes, people assume that others within the industry are more successful than them. Always remember that people have different desires in life and different definitions of success. 

Some people want to make seven figures while others want to spend fewer hours at work while still making the same amount of money. Other people are happy with what they have now, and you don’t need to convince them to want or do more.

What you can do is share what you’ve done and what your experiences are instead of telling people what they need to do. 

Are You Marketing In An Ethical Way?

Check your marketing strategies. Are you using ethical methods? What are you doing to reach a certain number? Ask yourself regularly how you can be a more ethical marketer. 

If you’re asking yourself whether you’re doing it right or if you’re pushing people the right way, then you’re on the right path. 

You should evaluate and question the norms so you can make sure that you’re serving the interest of your audience.

Find A Way That Feels Right For You

You need to decide for yourself what you believe is an ethical standard. When someone says something is right, that doesn’t automatically mean that it’s right. The same applies to things people say are wrong. If someone says this is the way to do it, it doesn’t mean it’s the only way. You have to find what feels right and good to you.

There are different strategies to use in the marketing world. But you should choose those that are ethical. If you’re not comfortable with what the others are doing, don’t follow it. Forge your own path. Stay honest and transparent and don’t be afraid to be different. 

If you want to learn more about online marketing and how to build a business the right way, be sure to join my FREE program, BADA$$ Online Marketing University.

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Bobby Klinck

Harvard Lawyer and Online Entrepreneur