Modern Day Bamboozling: Unethical Marketing in Business

As a savvy business owner, you understand the importance of effective and highly targeted marketing.  Effective marketing touches the consumers’ pain points in ways that similar products don’t. How?  Easy.  “Consumer Psychology”.  I know you might be asking yourself, is that even legal or ethical?  Yes.  Behavioral psychology in marketing is another story.   

Consumer psychology is merely analyzing the unconscious buying habits of consumers and where they are buying from.   What I want to cover today is learning the difference between ethical marketing and bamboozling your customers.  There’s a huge difference, and consumers are wise enough to know, even bolder to call you out on it. 

What is Ethical Marketing

The Financial Times Lexicon defines ethical marketing as,
“… a process through which companies generate customer interest in products/services, build strong customer interest/relationships, and create value for all stakeholders by incorporating social and environmental considerations in products and promotions. All aspects of marketing are considered, from sales techniques to business communication and business development.”

Pretty self explanatory, right?  As a business owner, gaining the trust of your customers, building a good rapport, and being consistently present, are the lifeblood of your success.  It’s hard to remain competitive, but for the sake of your and your business’ reputation, keep questionable marketing practices —  those that make you feel a tinge of “guilt” — out of your strategy

Now that you understand what ethical marketing is, let’s talk about how you avoid doing anything unethical in the first place. 

Ethical Marketing Vs. Bamboozling

As mentioned, consumer psychology is a part of effective and ethical marketing practices.  When you’re bamboozling your customers, you’re not interested in their buying behaviors or interests.  There’s one objective in mind and it only serves your short-term needs.   Eventually, there will be repercussions and what many call “buyer’s remorse”.  While you may have gotten away with it this time, you can very well ruin everything you’ve built with one foul move.  

If you want to see a prime example of bamboozling, think about how cigarettes and tobacco in the 1940s were advertised..  

Here’s 4 ways that you can avoid becoming “Joe Camel”. 

4 Unethical Marketing Tactics to Avoid

The Limited Edition or Quantity Tactic
This particular marketing ploy is as old as I am.  It’s where you try to scare your clients and customers into buying your product, by saying there’s a very limited supply, or this is a one and done product once sold out.  The fact of the matter is, you have more than enough in stock, in your warehouse, in your basement, or wherever.  If you have digital products, there’s NEVER a reason to do this.  How do you run out of a download?  I’ve seen it done many times with eBooks on Kindle.

How would you feel if you found out you bought the LAST of a Limited edition purse only to find out 300 more are on sale next month? Whew!

This can be a useful and ethical tactic in many cases, but think carefully before using it. 

Live Vs. Recorded Webinars
Please don’t take this as any type of criticism of recorded webinars.  Evergreen content is still Queen.  Especially for busy CEOs.  The problem is tricking your audience onto a “Live” call to only be greeted with evergreen/pre-recorded content. 

Think about how that makes your customers feel.  They are geeked!  Waiting all week and sometimes month to get on a LIVE call with their mentor, only  to be disappointed.  Do you think they will find you trustworthy after that?

Paying for Testimonials
There’s much debate about this topic.  Many people say that a review without a company name, location, and surname is 100% fake.  I disagree.  Not everyone works for themselves and has the privilege to disclose their company name.  I work for several Fortune 500 clients who have made me sign a non-disclosure agreement, meaning I can’t go around name-dropping or saying I work for them, for clout or otherwise.

Secondly, people like myself, who work with the mental health of others, don’t encourage people to leave their entire identity on reviews.  That’s a violation of their privacy.  Do you want people all over the internet to know that you regularly see a weight loss specialist?  What about someone who has trouble with anxiety and depression?  

Thirdly, there are some mean people out there.  People who target individuals based on certain information.  The last thing I want to do is put any of my clients at risk.  I do not even ask them to consider putting their location in the review.  They can say where and how we met, or how they came to me, in the review, but it’s not required in the signature line.  

With that being said, paying for  testimonials is not the most professional way to showcase your trustworthiness and credibility.   Build your brand honestly by asking happy customers for a review.  There’s plenty of advice on Google on how to do so in writing or in person on their next visit.

Fake Backstory & Lifestyle
Lastly, fabricating your backstory or lifestyle is the biggest and most egregious form of bamboozling of all.  Generally, the underlying motive tends to be tricking your customers into thinking you are more successful and financially stable than you really are.  People who do this often take selfies with other people’s material possessions such as a private jet, a mansion, a custom car,  an exclusive vacation destination, and so on.

While there are tons of true rags to riches stories out there, there are plenty of imposters out there as well.  Nonetheless,  while taking luxurious photos in upscale places can possibly boost your brand, it should never be THE story. 

How can you be authentic in sharing personal parts of your life, without appearing to brag or creating a false narrative? 

The next time you find yourself questioning your marketing tactics, ask yourself if you are willing to risk it all for a temporary win.  Hopefully, your reputation, your credibility, and your business mean more than whatever that current desire is.  Once your customers lose trust in you, you lose their business.  

Visit our official Facebook page and tell us how you remain ethical in your business marketing.  Share tactics you’ve used or ones that have been used on you.


  • Latasha Chubb

    L. Renee started her career as a Grant Administrator for the State of Ohio, where she wrote a $2 million block grant. Now a four-time published author and Financial Coach, L. Renee is passionate about helping individuals and businesses build wealth and overcome negative thoughts about finances and money. According to L. Renee, building wealth is not just about money, but also about the freedom to live life on your terms.

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