How many times have you been hit on today? No, not like that – but by a slew of email messages, internet pop-ups, billboards, radio broadcasts, TV ads, online marketing and a variety of print media? Twenty times? Fifty? A hundred? More?
And how did the urge to buy/experience/sign-up/visit/try/join make you feel? Interested and excited? Bombarded? Or confused and worried about all the great things you should be buying, experiencing, signing-up for, visiting, trying or joining?
I remember working for one company, a media company, and our CEO used to ‘encourage’ us by telling us that people buy because of fear or greed. So, to get them to buy from us, we were told to make them scared or make them feel greedy. And even back then I thought what a negative and cynical way of looking at people.
Now Phrasee is launching a socially responsible marketing campaign supported by all founders of the business, in an effort to buck this trend. The message is clear. Marketers have a responsibility and moral obligation to do the right thing and not exploit customers and clientele.
It is high time that marketers took responsibility for their actions and realise there is more to what we do than just selling a few more widgets. We have a social responsibility and if marketers want to create enduring relationships with customers they need to stop treating people like bottomless pits of surplus to extract. They need to move away from using fear and anxiety to sell more products and take a more positive approach.
But in a society becoming ever cynical about brand tactics, marketing is frequently viewed as the natural home of manipulative messaging and exploitation. Dr Fjola Helgadottir, PhD R. Psych, is the Director of AI-Therapy, a company that uses evidence-based technology strategies to treat social anxiety. A lot of her working life is spent helping people to understand why they are likely targets for fear-driven messages.
“I think it is important that we don’t use anxiety to manipulate people into buying things they don’t need,” she says. “All companies have an ethical responsibility to use advertising technology responsibly.”
And that is very true. Marketing is about getting your message out to market and about shifting product, but you can do it in two ways. You can do it in a cynical and negative way, using fear tactics to pressure people, or in a positive way by talking about the positive things you bring to market.
Also, while I welcome the current trend for more openness around mental health issues, I have to warn you of the many opportunities that exist to exploit this new situation.
Personalisation is a big movement in online marketing right now, emotional targeting based on the recipient’s emotional state. What if someone is entering a depressive state and you’re using this uber personalisation suite to target them? Ultimately this means you’re exploiting someone who is in a very vulnerable place and morally that is not right.
With the strong message that “emotions matter – more than you think”, Phrasee is a loud voice for change in the industry. All eyes now are on industry reactions as the campaign gathers force.
By Parry Malm, founder and CEO of Phrasee AI marketing software company
Learn more about ethical marketing via a collection of thought-provoking articles and advice from senior figures and highly respected brands in the marketing space. Download the Phrasee Emotions Matter Guide here and join forward-thinking marketers in changing the conversation around fear and anxiety-based marketing.