The Marketeer

More on Marketing Ethics: Persuasion vs. Manipulation

I saw a link to an article about Persuasion vs. Manipulation and had to click through. This has been a topic we’ve discussed often on Marketing Over Coffee and Dr. Pete has some interesting observations. I was trying to get them to fit with some discussions and ground rules we’ve already laid down. My intent was not to criticize him, but rather to see if I could align what he’s said with some of what we’ve covered to see if we can’t get further out on the frontier.

What I’ve written below won’t make much sense unless you’ve checked out his article first:

My first point is that Persuasion vs. Manipulation is only a shade of gray and usually not at the core of the ethical questions around a transaction. Persuasion is making an argument. Manipulation does not have to be sinister, it can simply mean that one is an expert persuader, especially when they are using that advantage against someone that is not as skilled in making arguments. It does also include being able to coerce someone into a situation that they may not desire to be in (which could be for good or bad, but often to the manipulator’s advantage).

Questioning the ethics of the Sales/Marketer’s behavior is not a matter of what information the buyer is lacking (basically situations 1,2,3 and 5 are just varying degrees of lacking information, situation 4 is lacking all the information), but whether the intent of the persuader or manipulator is for “Good” or “Evil”. These are Philosophy 101 arguments. Taking a 50,000 foot view you can divide this into three buckets:

  1. Ethics depend on if you followed the rules (Deontology) but this tends to be inflexible and has logic problems (killing is bad until someone wants to kill you, HAL won’t open the pod bay doors…)
  2. Every situation is different, it just matters if the outcome is “Good” or “Bad” (I had been taught that this was Utilitarianism, but have since learned that this is a branch of Consequentialism), can work but can get weird when you realize that killing half the population might make the world a lot better for the survivors. Lots of humanity’s darkest hours come from these corners.
  3. For discussion (and my personal life, I) find it useful to use a mashup of both –  rules that most people agree are “Right” – like don’t steal or kill people, but every rule has exceptions and outcomes need to be considered. We don’t kill, except for the people that we send Jack Bauer after, they need to die NOW (Jack always requires a lot of yelling too).

Scenario 1: This is order taking – marketing needs to make sure that they can find your website and place an order. This is can be abused as much as any of the other scenarios. My website “Send me a buck and I’ll send you 20” can take orders and then I can run with the money.

Scenario 2: The key here is “the customer hasn’t made up their mind” and seller usually doesn’t know either the ethical implications of why they haven’t made up their mind, or if their decision process is even rational. Are they buying a gun and ammo to settle an argument at work? Are they buying a car that they can’t afford that will take food off the family’s table? If the car dealer manipulates them into a car they can afford is that wrong?

Scenario 3: Actually this is a very simple situation to evaluate but there are two separate issues: 1. The ethics of the parties – is either lying or manipulating? 2. The ethics of the choice – is the transaction right or wrong? Does either party care? This is just a check list, vendor A or B will be closer to what the buyer wants and there may be lying on all sides.

Scenario 4: Again I argue that the previous 3 and number 5 are just varying degrees of lack of information in the decision making process. This Scenario is unique and requires education more than order taking. There’s tons of stuff written on this, many people talk about “Missionary Sales” and Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” explains why it takes so long for these types of sales to cross over to the mass market. You are almost there saying that Scenario 4 may not be cost effective – in fact, it’s never cost effective, but if your product is revolutionary you will make the money back. The key is it’s not about whether or not you choose to take that path, it’s if your product is great enough to pull you through to the other side where the mass market sits

Scenario 5: Very common, the buyer decides to change the priority of their decision making criteria. I thought the Chevy was better, but now that I can get the Ford for $1,000 less…

These Scenarios are all great for analysis but the question of ethics usually just boils down to: Who stands to gain? (Follow the money). Or, “Who’s lying?”. Soooo, basically this is the world’s longest blog comment. Thanks Dr. Pete for giving me something to think about!

Productivity Buster

Techno Fear vs. Techno Joy


Productivity Booster

Best Stylus for the iPad – Six Months Later

Boxwave from Round 1 with Newcomers Acase 2 and Pogo Sketch 2

A while ago I wrote a post about the best stylus for the iPad. Since then I have run more than 10 styluses through the paces. If you want the backstory check out the other post. If you are just looking for the punchline – here it is:

At the time I rated the rubber tip styluses as the best. When you take them out of the box, they have a great smooth feel. The problem is that over time they wear out. From what I’ve observed, after a couple of months of heavy use the tip gets smoother, which then causes it to stick to the screen more and get more difficult to use. For two of them it got to the point where the tips tore because of the friction.

Fortunately, just like Balboa in Rocky 3, one of the best that got smacked down has returned better than ever – the Pogo Sketch. It uses a fabric tip that is not as fast as the new rubber tip, but is faster than the rubber tip after one month – and it stays that fast. The Pogo Sketch was the first stylus I had tested and my favorite until the plastic clip broke off, the new version has a metal clip so it looks like that problem has been solved.

The other new one I tested is the Acase 2. The same rubber tip, but a bit smaller, and a leash so you can plug it into your headphone jack (I’m not really psyched about doing that since if something goes wrong there you are screwed). It also makes some noise and I’m not into the whole jingle bell thing outside of December.

I’ll give it another six months and we’ll see how it goes.

Daily Life

Run to Home Base 2011

Where have I been for the last couple of weeks? Working on this project:
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