Through modern retargeting, anyone can manipulate consumers into believing something they wouldn’t believe. And we mean anyone can: the media, government, marketers, online business owners…anyone!
The human mind largely works on a subconscious level. During every second of a day, it takes in — and filters — tremendous amounts of information and makes assumptions based on it.
So, as we scroll through Facebook or browse YouTube, we don’t always understand what is going on. We take it in but don’t necessarily understand the message — or question whether it is true and factually correct. We are on autopilot and subconsciously form beliefs and perceptions of everything!
Marketing was built on this tactic. The reason Coca-Cola became the giant it is today is because it managed to create a sort of omnipresence through billboards, TV spots, newspaper ads and the like. The company knew that if we saw enough of the brand, we would eventually form attachments with it.
And it’s not the only one to do so.
We come across “fake news” every day about something or someone on a very frequent basis. Political parties and political/ideological groups build momentum by targeting specific “bubbles” of people and begin growing from there, as things that may or may not be true are made to feel true. Sometimes, even Goebbelsian tactics are savagely used to sway the public’s opinion or bring a society to its knees through false propaganda and fake news.
A wise man once said: “People do not always believe the truth, but what they perceive to be the truth. And perception is reality!”
This perception is made to feel like the truth through homogenous groups called “bubbles”, as mentioned before. Companies, governments, ideologies, and religions have targeted bubbles like these throughout history. As a species, we are bred to attach ourselves to such bubbles: hobbies, political beliefs, age/peer groups, interest, religion, sports, sports teams, food preferences — the list is endless.
The stakes are incredibly high these days. Anyone with access to the right algorithm (and if we have access to Google or Facebook we even have access to these algorithms) can target, re-target and manipulate these bubbles of people. E-commerce giants like Amazon or Flipkart can manipulate us into buying certain products. The media can manipulate us into believing (or not) in a new agenda or campaign. Politicians can manipulate us into forming certain perceptions or prejudice.
We cannot escape this. Not only does it impact us as individuals, but also as business owners — because as business owners we can and will manipulate our target customers every single day.
If we own a business, manipulation in marketing is an inherent part of what we do. It is the only way to create raving fans, sell them products, and gain their trust. Therefore the issue is not whether we do it or not — but rather how we do it.
Successful entrepreneurs are conscious about how they use manipulation as a marketing tool. They do not feel guilty about doing it and we shouldn’t either, because if done properly then it’s a good thing that can have a largely positive impact on our target customers. But like most good things, it can quickly turn sour in the wrong hands.
So, how do we ethically use the power of manipulation in marketing?
It begins by knowing and understanding our offer/product at a deep level. Are we honest about this? Does it transform? Are we and the product the real deal? Will it have a genuine impact on the other person? We have to believe in what we do and commit to becoming the best at it.
Once we do, we then have to know who it’s helpful for. We have to be open minded about this. We need to know our target customers on an equally deep level too, which of course takes a lot of effort, research and sifting through information. What is the biggest problem our customers are facing right now? What, if anything, is hurting or harming them? Are they avoiding this pain and resisting taking action?
This is where we must be willing to intervene. Interventional physicians do not wait for the patient to become “ready enough” for intervention. They intervene before the ailment gets critical. This is why manipulation in marketing is a good thing — because, as worrisome as it sounds, it is in our DNA to want to remain in our comfort zone and remain blind to the details of the solutions we need.
Our job is to shine a light on their problem, so they know they have it. Our job is to show them the solution, so they know what to do. Our job is to guide them, so they can overcome their problem.
If we want to help our target customers, we have to manipulate them; otherwise they may never “figure it out”. The ethically correct way to go about it, thus, centers around:
The HOW method is easy to carry out; but most people do not use it, because it is far easier still to prey on the fears and insecurities of the target customers. Such scary tactics neither serve them nor serve the public in the long run.
To endure in the cutthroat world of business, we need to be both smart and considerate. As consumers, we need to start paying attention to the details of how the market directly affects us, and stop being ignorant while making use of any service or product. And as businesspersons, we need to ensure that our success never comes at the cost of the consumers’ health, safety and emotions. The power of choice rests with us.