The ethical move: Melissa’s pledge

August 30, 2021

Have you ever noticed that certain marketing tactics are kinda… manipulative? Me too. I’ve always tried to be transparent and ethical in my comms so it was refreshing when I came across the ethical move: a movement for ethical marketing.

The ethical move is setting out to empower conscious consumers and business owners by creating a new marketing standard based on transparency, trust, and honesty; avoiding scare tactics and psychological manipulation. To abolish negative marketing ntactics for good, they are creating an ethical marketing standard to live alongside Organic, Fair Trade, and B-Corp.

It’s something that really resonated with so I’m proud to have signed the pledge. To find out why, read on for a bit more information about the movement. (Spoiler: much of these descriptions have been taken from the excellent explanations on their website – why change what works?!)

about the ethical move

The ethical move pledge is a place to rally, to take direct action, and with it spread the word. It is meant to challenge assumptions, to create conversation, to connect us with others who want to break the cycle.

It was created through years of research and months of collaboration by the members of our team. We chose the tactics that –to our minds– are most blatantly interfering with the ways small online business owners are communicating with their people, and that could be easily adapted to a more ethical approach. We wrote each word together, in many, many Zoom calls.

The ethical move’s commitment.

Put the person before the sale.

Help them make the best choice for their needs, not yours.

Practice honest marketing.

Tell the truth, don’t lie.

Commit to transparency.

Communicate clearly, and don’t withhold information.

Take responsibility.

Contribute to the betterment of your industry.

Sell with integrity.

Honour explicit and implicit promises.

Level the playing field.

Recognise vulnerable segments, never discriminate.

The ethical move’s pledge

So, what have I signed up to? This is the ethical move’s pledge – please call me out if you see me going against these pointers!

1. charm pricing

I pledge to change my pricing from ‘charm prices’ ($297) to round numbers ($300).

We judge prices based on the leftmost digit of a number. Charm prices use the left-digit-effect to make a product appear cheaper than it is, bypassing the conscious choice of the buyer. They are only created to generate more sales and do not benefit the buyer in the least.

2. countdowns

I pledge to not use countdown timers to drive a sale.

Countdown timers (ticker) create feelings of anxiety and a false sense of urgency: “You have to do it now… or you will lose out forever”. They’re designed to make people make hasty decisions instead of allowing them the time to decide if it’s the right purchase for them.

3. false scarcity

I pledge to be honest about availability.

False scarcity is designed to make an opportunity, product or service seem more rare, and therefore more valuable than it actually is. This plays on consumers’ fear of missing out and loss aversion, rather than allowing them to buy out of genuine desire.

4. lead magnets

I pledge to be transparent in my email list building.

Lead magnets (freebies, opt-ins) are used to collect email addresses for the purpose of marketing (list building). Several layers of manipulation are at play when using lead magnets: It is hard to resist something ‘free’; there is harm in calling something ‘free’ when we are paying for it with our information, time, and attention; an email address is a low-bar entry agreement – which lowers the resistance to saying no in the future; and once enrolled, having handed over information makes us more receptive to what is being sent to us.

I don’t have a marketing list at the moment but, when I do, I commit to making it easy for people to opt out.

5. bait and switch

I pledge to deliver the value I promise pitch-conscious.

Bait and switch occurs when we are led to expect something of value, and what we get doesn’t match that expectation (a webinar turning into an unexpected sales pitch). Bait is designed to cognitively prime us for receiving value, and once we are lured in and the value item is removed, we become anxious to fill the void with almost any solution that will make us feel whole again. Having value given to us, we feel called to reciprocate – with our time, information, attention, or money.

6. woke washing.

I pledge to not use social issues to leverage our marketing.

Woke washing is the appropriation of ethical and progressive values with the intent to leverage image and increase sales, when behind closed doors, the actions and words don’t match the reality (when a brand donates to BLM while exploiting BIPOC in their supply chain). Not only does this put more attention on the ‘virtuous’ company than the movement or change it is claiming to support, it can inadvertently derail their mission by creating misinformation and indifference. This type of manipulation rides on our need to be seen favourably by our peers: we buy from companies that will create a positive image for us by extension.

7. secret recipe

I pledge to not make false promises in our sales and marketing.

A ‘secret recipe’ is when someone claims they have an exclusive secret to success, or a shortcut, that no one else has. There is no ONE solution to a problem, and claiming that there is creates a sense of lack and loss aversion that are hard to resist.

If this resonates with you too, you can take the pledge here:

This represents my pledge to the ethical move in service of a new marketing standard based on transparency, trust, and honesty. Please connect with me if you see me not honouring my pledge.


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