Why I support The Ethical Move in marketing

Giving shady tactics and manipulation the flick at Heydays

I’d like $10 for every time someone recommended the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It’s often regarded as the Bible of copywriting (right up there with Ogilvy on Advertising), and most new writers are encouraged to take the principles from the book and apply them religiously to their craft. In Influence, Robert Cialdini, a leading social scientist, lays out six psychology-backed strategies that professional influencers use to get people to say ‘yes’.

But here’s the thing. Cialdini didn’t write it as a manual for writers and advertisers to help them sell more stuff. He actually wrote it for consumers to help them recognise and resist manipulation. Interesting, right?

Recovering from traditional marketing

Over the past four years running Heydays, I’ve been on a journey of unlearning. I think my biggest epiphany hit a couple of years ago when I read Rob Hardy’s Non-Coercive Marketing — a new philosophy of marketing, rooted in letting go of control, and trusting people to be their own authority. Here’s Rob’s summary of the philosophy:

Non-coercive marketing places full authority and trust in people. It creates the conditions under which they can make empowered decisions for themselves, and do so in their own time. It doesn’t seek to persuade, manipulate, or pester people into a decision that’s already been made for them. It merely opens new doors, tells the truth about what’s behind those doors, then surrenders the outcome, trusting that the right people will step through when they’re ready.

In that way, non-coercive marketing is a leap of faith, rooted in the idea that if you stop trying to control people, and encourage them to be their own authority, you can build positive sum relationships that lead to organic and mutually-enriching transactions. This relational shift is also at the heart of how we begin healing the emotional wounds lying beneath humanity’s many problems.

Reading this manifesto of sorts confirmed everything I’d been feeling. If a marketing or sales activity feels ‘icky’ to do — that might not necessarily be imposter syndrome kicking in, or ‘fear of selling’ or whatever else we convince ourselves we’re experiencing. Maybe it feels icky, because, it genuinely is kinda icky.

I’m talking about using fear and scarcity and woke washing, and false authority and blown-out-of-proportion social proof — all designed to help us sell a few more services. And, I mean, they work — they really work! But they prioritise short-term revenue at the expense of, well, human beings.

About The Ethical Move

I stumbled across The Ethical Move in the best possible way. Fellow marketers, copywriters, agencies and studios that I respected — like really respected — had taken the pledge, and popped the badge in their email footers.

None of them had ever forced me through a funnel. None of them had ever taken an off-the-cuff text message or email or comment I’d written and republished it as a testimonial. I never felt like they were constantly packaging and repacking their offers and trying to hit the right emotional trigger that would make me buy.

In my world, that’s pretty refreshing.

So, curious, I popped in to see what The Ethical Move was all about. I had a quick read-through the pledge and I was in. Like so in. Here’s what I’ve committed to.

1. Heydays will put the person before the sale

We respect you and your privacy. We’ll help you make the best choice for your needs.

For us this means:

  1. Optimising for a small number of aligned and empowered agency partnerships, with teams that are delighted to do business with us.
  2. Giving partner agencies freedom in how they navigate working with us so that together we create a positive, open and transparent working relationship
  3. Referring agencies to another writer if we don’t believe we’re the best fit for the project.

2. Heydays will communicate inclusively, truthfully and clearly

We will not confuse you or hide information from you. We will help all audiences feel welcome.

For us this means:

  1. Having clear, transparent and consistent pricing, which any agency can request at any time, with no strings attached.
  2. Being clear about how much space we have left in our calendar and whether rush rates will apply.
  3. Telling the truth about our skills, knowledge and experience — not inflating our track record to make a sale.
  4. Giving everyone who wants to work with us all of the information they need to make an empowered decision.

3. We take responsibility for our part in changing the marketplace.

We recognise the need to break the cycle of consumerism. We will continuously review our sales and marketing to ensure they benefit the common good.

For us this means:

  1. Eliminating psychologically manipulative tactics from our own marketing
  2. Pushing back when a partner agency is asking us to implement psychologically manipulative tactics for a client.

These tactics include:

  • Charm pricing
  • Countdowns
  • False scarcity
  • Extensive lead magnet funnels
  • Bait and switch sales calls
  • Woke washing
  • Secret recipe claims.

You can see a breakdown of the full list of tactics here.

Hold us accountable!

We know that signing something and slapping a badge on our website is easy. Probably too easy. So we’re counting on you to hold us accountable. Please let us know if you see us acting manipulatively and not honouring this pledge. We really care about this stuff. Thank you.