You Literally Won’t Believe These Marketing Techniques!

Last week Facebook changed its algorithm so that ‘clickbait’ articles (ones that use headlines like, “You literally won’t believe what this celebrity was up to”, to get people to click onto a pointless article that they click away from almost immediately) are penalised and will appear less frequently in people’s timelines.

I hate any sort of marketing that involves tricking people. These days, when marketing is all about ‘the conversation’ and people can tell the world about their experience in a nanosecond, selling anything relies on trust and relationships, yet there are still a lot of people using dodgy marketing techniques to make a sale.

Here are some of my least favourite:

1. Using ‘Re: a conversation we weren’t having’ as the email subject

If someone has to trick me into opening an email from them they clearly know it’s spam so I’m not really sure why they bother sending it??

By pretending we’ve been chatting they’re guaranteeing that I’ll hit ‘Delete’ as soon as I see it. It’s insulting that someone thinks I’m too stupid to remember who I’m exchanging emails with, not a great way to start a conversation.

Screen shot 2014-09-03 at 18.43.24

2. Faking scarcity

‘Sale ends at 12p.m. TODAY’

‘Sale ends at 5p.m. TODAY.’

‘More GREAT bargains’.

‘Last chance to buy!’

‘Just a few more hours.’

‘And a few more…’

Or one I saw last week: ‘As a valued member you’re invited to this exclusive event’. So exclusive that the next day it was advertised all over the web. Wow, don’t I feel special!

People only believe in scarcity if you follow through

The thing is, people only believe in scarcity or that they’re the member of an exclusive club (well-known ways of encouraging people to buy) if it’s true. If I don’t believe what you say, I won’t trust you, and if I don’t trust you, I ain’t gonna do business with you.

3. The forced lock-in

A group I was a member of last year had set up my monthly payments in such a way that I had no power to cancel them. They took a payment from my card every month, there was no standing order or direct debit and I had no control over the payment.

The only way I could cancel was by calling them during office hours and asking them to cancel my membership, and it took a  lot of searching (and I’m the Queen of the internet search) just to find out how to contact them.

The hard sell I got when I did call was embarrassing – would I like to carry on paying a smaller amount to keep the option of re-joining in the future open because they couldn’t guarantee that I’d be able to otherwise?

Umm, let me think about that.

Screen shot 2014-09-03 at 18.52.58

4. Membership of an elite

This is a clever idea. You say that you’re the only member of a certain category or group to give you a competitive edge over everyone else. The thing is that your membership is based on an irrelevant factor or something you’ve made up rather than something that makes you stand out from the crowd for a good reason.

I totally get the ‘category of one’ when it’s meaningful, it’s about developing your USP. But tricking people? Nah, it’s not for me.

I’ve even seen someone who’s set up an organisation with only a few members in it then – shock, surprise – they are one of the few elite who’s a member!

[See Causation versus Correlation for a look at the difference between the causes of success and the indicators of success]


5. The magic bullet approach

You know the one-size-fits all marketing I’m talking about – “The 5 Things You Absolutely Need to Do NOW to Win More Business”, “I Made £100k as Soon as I Started Doing This”.

The people flogging them use every trick in the book to get you interested in their secret formula.

But what really amazes me is that if all these ‘experts’ know so much about marketing, how come they don’t know the first principle – that it has to be targeted?

Which dodgy marketing techniques make your blood boil? Please share them below.


4 thoughts on “You Literally Won’t Believe These Marketing Techniques!

  1. Hi Jeremy,
    Thanks for your comment. I get really riled by this sort of thing and I can’t believe it helps companies in the long-term, it must damage their reputations so much. As you say, these methods belong in the past.


What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.