Dark Patterns – the bottom line of diminishing returns

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Archaic patterns: Dress-for-Success, Day Planners, cold calls, hard sells, brick phones, power ties, feathered hair, and the TLA (the department of Three Letter Acronyms): some things should be left to rest in peace. Somehow, the worst of the worst has risen from the marketing grave and infected the natural, organic, and the living. Here’s a list of walking dead that should be taken out before they infect more of us: bait-and-switch, forced continuity, road blocks, disguised ads, and many, many more.

Honestly, who believes that any of these manipulative, open-ended numbers games are a good idea over the long run? Hammering away at people in order to get them to buy, and then fudging the numbers may be an indicator that your product isn’t worth it. The rate of diminishing returns soon outpaces your growth exponentially. If you’re an honest business selling an honest product, you really shouldn’t fall into any of these patterns. It could be deadly for your business.

The Past

Flashback (please don’t Flashdance) to my time in Los Angeles circa 1985. I was offered a job at every telephone sales company I walked into. Apparently, they liked my dulcet, baritone telephone persona. One of the last companies I worked for in that industry had a very cocky workforce that claimed they could sell copier toner to companies that didn’t even have copiers. And, they were right. They had the dark patterns down to an art: Learn the spiel, dial quickly, talk quickly, have a series of rejection responses/misdirections/trick-questions, close, close, close! I remember one salesperson closing a $3000 sale of toner to a small pet store. Of course, the toner was returned because they had no copier. But hey, they could quantify their success rate by cherry-picking the stats (i.e. leaving out the returns). Dark patterns indeed.

While we’re talking about manipulative, open-ended numbers games, lets talk about the biggest zombie of all: Aggressive email marketing and lead capture. This idea that you can inundate your customers/prospects (people, as I like to call them) with emails that offer nothing more than repeated fluff and non-content in a bid to sell them something is no better than the cold call in the 80’s. Lets put that epidemic to rest sooner than later. If you want your email to be effective, it needs to be opt-in, personalized, have real content written by real people. Targeted, tangible, and free of marketing speak, corporate jargon, and buzzwords. Face it, if your content is what people want, they’re going to find it and share it organically anyway.

The Future

“Editorial is the core of the PopSugar brand, and without the core, there can’t be a deal with Kohl’s, there can’t be PopSugar Playground — none of that is there without the PopSugar audience. That’s how you understand how you have permission to go somewhere next…Married with editorial product, everything finds its way. If you focus on making money, you wind up diluting the brand.” ~PopSugar CRO Geoff Schiller

The future is about Transparency, honesty, autonomy, choice, open-source, and responsiveness. Be wary of businesses that approach your potential purely in terms of bottom-line and ROI. Do some due diligence before taking the bait. Be aware of businesses and individuals who put people first! Especially those who understand the organic and dynamic nature of doing business online. Give them your business. Foster healthy partnerships for long-term success. Remember, the market is made up of living, breathing people. Stop the marketing zombie apocalypse.

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