5 Unethical Marketing Tactics Your Business Should Avoid
Today's largely consumer-driven marketplace demands more than ever before that brands be transparent in what they do. Since anyone now has the ability to leave feedback on social media or consumer opinion websites, unscrupulous marketers are at a much greater risk of being exposed. Nonetheless, one only has to take a peek inside their spam email folders to realize that there are perhaps more unethical than ethical marketers out there. In other words, there's no shortage of people trying to make a quick fortune without giving a second thought to the longer term.
Many spammers are affiliate marketers that the original product vendor has failed to keep control over. Others are vendors themselves trying to peddle a junk product, typically of the digital kind. There's no doubt that unethical marketing works, otherwise they wouldn't be so widespread. However, for businesses that intend to be anything more than a passing distraction, a sustainable and ethical marketing strategy is crucial to success. After all, a respected brand is unmatched when it comes to longevity, with many of the world's favorites lasting for decades.
#1. Using Irrelevant Imagery
It has been proven time and again that visual content is more effective at converting than text alone. People are visual in nature, and they're much more likely to notice eye-catching imagery than any amount of text, no matter how well presented. One of the oldest (and still one of the most dreadful) misuses of imagery in advertising is using sex to advertise completely unrelated products. Many spammers, particularly those that deliberately mislead people by using bait-and-switch tactics, will happily do away with any semblance of subtlety in the hope of making a quick sale.
Images that are not clearly associated with your value proposition should be avoided at all costs, including clichéd stock photos that are too generic to really serve any purpose other than fill up screen space. Rather than confuse or lead people astray, images should serve a purpose, meaning that they should have some story appeal or demonstrate your product or service in action. Visual content, whether in the form of a sponsored ad or a blog header should, capture the essence of your brand. In other words, don't use pictures of breasts to sell personal finance products!
#2. Making Hyperbolic Claims
It's hardly any wonder that so many people consider advertising to be one of the great evils of modern times. After all, there's no shortage of deceptive advertising on the Web that makes use of hyperbolic claims to try to capitalize on people's pain points in the worst way possible. There is a large grey area between conveying subjective opinions and plain old false advertising. As such, a lot of unscrupulous advertising makes it past the regulators without too much effort. However, false advertising will undoubtedly hurt your brand in the longer term.
Since consumers now have more power over a brand's reputation than they ever did before, companies are under greater pressure to steer clear of false advertising. After all, if someone buys a garden tool that was advertised as 'indestructible', but it breaks after the first use, the vendor will likely earn a very unflattering review. In other words, deceptive advertising might earn you the sale in the first place, but the following bad review could result in losing many more sales in the future. Next time you're tempted to indulge in some hyperbole, think about your brand's reputation.
#3. Using Pushy Sales Tactics
Today's consumers constantly complain about spam mail, cold-calling and other invasive advertising tactics. Being too pushy in your marketing strategy is perhaps even more harmful to your brand than making wild claims about your products or services. After all, you'll often end up annoying people so much that they won't even buy from you in the first place. No one likes the pushy salesperson who is clearly only concerned with making easy money in as little time as possible, and it will quickly damage your reputation.
Many companies that use pushy sales tactics are the also the types that sell complete junk, sometimes bordering on outright scams. After all, brands that have something useful to sell rarely indulge in clickbait and other annoying practices. A reputable brand, by contrast, works tirelessly to build its reputation over the longer term with value-adding content and impeccable customer support. Being a great marketer is about finding the compromise between informing your audience about your product or service and actively encouraging them to part with their money.
#4. Forgetting the Audience
When it comes to increasing customer satisfaction and, consequently, building up a great reputation by way of online ratings and reviews, relevancy is absolutely crucial. However, less experienced marketers often fall into the trap of thinking only about sales at the expense of the people who are ultimately responsible for the company's revenue - the target audience. All companies should have a focus, and this focus should revolve around a rigidly defined target audience that your marketing team is able to make a meaningful connection with.
Many impatient digital marketers think about nothing much other than their visibility in the search engines, and they'll go to virtually any lengths to manipulate the search results through methods such as keyword-stuffing and spamming backlinks on social media. In the long term, however, such marketers will only achieve the opposite to what they intend. If you're forgetting your audience at the expense of trying to artificially increase your visibility only, your website and its content will offer little or nothing valuable to the people who matter most - your customers.
#5. Sending Unsolicited Mail
More than 205 billion emails are sent daily, the overwhelming majority of them being commercial. Although it's not always easy to determine what constitutes a spam email, it's likely that well over half of these emails are spam, meaning that they were sent without permission. Sending out unsolicited mail, and this includes any affiliates that might be sending out spam on your behalf, is a sure-fire way to completely destroy your reputation. Spamming has also been illegal in the US ever since the CAN SPAM act of 2003, and many other countries now have similar laws in place.
Simply meeting the legal definition of spam is not enough if you want to build a reputable brand. A solid email newsletter should not only be personalized and relevant to its recipient - you should also have explicit permission before sending out any commercial email. Many companies automatically send out sales content as soon as they receive an email address, such as when someone makes a purchase or creates an account, even if they haven't actually sought permission to send sales content rather than things like invoices and customer-service alerts.
Unscrupulous advertising remains the bane of the Internet and, sadly, it's not likely that spam is going to disappear anywhere soon, despite the fact that no one actually wins in the longer term. However, if you plan to establish a brand that will truly stand the test of time and become one of the best-loved and talked-about companies on social media, then you'll want to avoid the aforementioned marketing tactics at all costs. Your potential and existing customers will thank you for it, and you'll be in a much better position to build up plenty of widely visible positive feedback online.