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Ethical Line of Persuasion

If you don’t like watching videos here is the written version of the article. The things I do for my readers 🙂

Marketing has become incredibly powerful. Whenever you go to a website (whether it’s CNN or Walmart.com), often times anonymous aspects of our data are sold in the marketplace. The goal of this is to not release personal information but to instead stitch together certain aspects to determine purchase intent. We can use this information to market products effectively.

However, there is an ethical line that no marketer should ever cross because once you cross that line the whole point of marketing is lost. Let’s talk about it.

So what is the ethical line? The truth is we aren’t even fully sure what it is. There are certainly black and white aspects of what is wrong and what’s right, but there is also a gray area that makes it ever so challenging to determine the morality (i.e. can you blame Budweiser for an idiot who drank 20 beers and then drove extremely fast on the highway?).

I’d like to share a more black and white example that happened to me while on CNN.com. I saw an Outbrain ad and decided to click on it. The ad brought you to a website called SmartConsumerToday where they were marketing a CPAP machine.

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After reading the article I wasn’t particularly impressed with it (as a marketer I am always thinking skeptically). However, what did impress me is that they had 347 comments and that seemed like a strong social proof element:

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When looking at this comment interface you can immediately see the similarities to Facebook. Scrolling through the comment you can see that people were replying to comments, there was a top commenter, and even a follow button for each person. This is where the curiosity began:

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The “347 comments” (seen in the first image of this article) is not actually a clickable element, meaning you can’t sort the reviews. Even worse than that, the comment box was literally just a screenshot, so you couldn’t even leave a comment if you wanted to! The buttons at the bottom of each comment (reply, like, follow post) aren’t interactive and the timestamps for each comment aren’t correct (I viewed this article in the morning and it’s now the afternoon, much more than 13 minutes ago).

Seeing this fake customer comment interface left me absolutely flabbergasted. This is a clear example of crossing the ethical line. Remember to be mindful of all the tools we have as marketers and make sure we are using them ethically.

Treat others how you want to be treated.


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