Invitational Marketing in a Manipulative World – Some Questions to Spark Conversation

Dec 15, 2021

Do you enjoy click-bait?

You know—those tantalizing headlines that use lots of emotional, sensational words that really make you curious but also turn you off?

The art of marketing is often taught as that thing itself, aka click-bait—if those words get clicked, it’s a win for the business. If the sale gets made, the story stops there.

I’ve not been in marketing very long, so I am still willing to learn.

I’m here to argue, though that this is not an effective, ethical, or kind way of marketing.

How is it not effective?

What if the seductive headlines are the ones that get the most clicks? Or the most sales?

What if, instead, it slowly chips away your client’s trust in you? What if they feel slightly gross every time they buy from you because they know that your product won’t quite bring the entire world transformation that it promises? Is that effective marketing over the long haul?

How is it not ethical?

Manipulation is never ever the way to interact with other humans. It is okay to list benefits of your product or service. It is okay to say, “if you have x problem, x product is designed especially for you.”

But it is never okay to say prey on vulnerabilities. You can recognize vulnerabilities and offer to help them. But you should never manipulate someone else’s vulnerability into something that will benefit yourself or for your own benefit or profit.

What should it be instead?

Copy should be kind. It should offer to help, but not insist. It should always keep the entire person in mind, not just the sale. It should come across as invitational and hospitable.

Does this mean that copywriting has to be boring in order to be ethical? Nope. Not at all. It is definitely okay to use interesting words, and to string them together in a way that is compelling and captures the attention of your ideal client. I am an advocate for good words.

At the same time, though, I stand behind my belief that it is more effective long term to use words in your copy that are straight-forward, clear, impeccably honest, and not sensational. Even subtle loss of trust is going to damage you and your business. Instead of insisting, invite with kindness.

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