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Fuschia Hutton

Marketing your ethical brand? Yes, you can use these classic psychological ‘tricks’

Several years ago, I tried to set up a small, products-based business.

I got my website ready, took some nice, if not overly stunning photos, and excitedly scheduled some tweets for launch day. My tweets were quite simple, announcing the business launch and asking my audience to go check it out. I told my friends about it, both in person and virtually, hoping for some valuable word-of-mouth custom.

The next day, I logged on to my Google Analytics, hoping to see at least a handful of website visits.

Not a sausage.

The reason? I hadn’t given anyone a strong enough reason to check out my website. No reason to click, no sale, no business.

After a few month of this, I quickly ran out of steam and decided to cut it short before I went crazy. Now, I knew that marketing was hard, I was prepared for a fight, but I was still in denial about just how hard it would be.

I’m sure you know all this, and hopefully you’ve got more fighting spirit than I had back then. But knowing something isn’t working, and knowing what to do about it are two different things.

To get customers to buy, you need to give them a reason.

But how do you do that?

Persuasive copywriting

How about dialling up the persuasiveness of your marketing by borrowing some of the psychological ‘tricks’ that classic copywriters have been employing for years.

These days, these tricks (I prefer ‘techniques’) are used a lot in conversion copywriting – fancy marketing-speak for a sales page or product description written in a way that is so persuasive, your ideal customer can’t help but bite.

Now, as a values-led changemaker, the idea of using psychological techniques might turn your stomach.

Certainly, one of the reasons ethical businesses are suspicious of marketing, and copywriting in particular, is because in the past psychology has been particularity successful at manipulating people into buying more of what they don’t need. And it’s one of the reasons we’re in the mess we’re in.

So no, I’m certainly not suggesting that you sneak some subliminal advertising into your marketing plan.

But psychology can be used for positive reasons. It can help get your message out there more effectively, cut through the noise, and even change deep-seated (unhelpful) opinions.

Here are some ways you can market persuasively and ethically.

Talk to your audience’s motivators

It’s difficult to sell your products or services effectively if you don’t have a strong grasp of what motivates your customers to buy from you.

What is it about to only your product or service, but also the general category that makes customers consider your brand?

Now, more than ever, consumers are faced with so many choices.

Perhaps you sell simple black t-shirts made from sustainable bamboo with a transparent supply chain. Your customers could choose a simple black t-shirt from Primark or from Dolce & Gabbana. They could choose one made from 100% organic cotton, or one which has been made entirely in the EU. Perhaps they choose a stretchy, form-hugging style or a loose, relaxed one. Behind each of these potential choices lies a very different motivation and customer type, so figuring that out and then addressing it in your communications is key.

And there could be several motivations together. Perhaps style and a transparent supply chain are key. Or maybe wearing sustainable fabrics is as important as image – being seen as a fashion forward-thinker.

Some customers are motivated by their concern for the environment as a whole, others by specific issues such as animal-testing or plastic pollution. Some are motivated by not wanting to touch anything that could potentially be toxic and harm their health. Others are concerned about their children’s future.

Once you know these, you can start weaving them into your copy by acknowledging motivations and addressing concerns.

Spread the love by reciprocating

Reciprocating brand love by rewarding your customers can increase their warm feelings about you. This could be a discount on their first or a repeat order, a voucher when they refer a friend.

It could be as simple as reciprocating social media love by responding to or sharing their message. It doesn’t sound like ground-breaking stuff, but you’d be surprised at how many brands don’t do this. It’s a nice way to show you care about them and live your values as an ethical brand.

You could include a physical free gift when they receive their order – although approach this with caution. Customers with strong environmental values or zero wasters may not appreciate something extra they didn’t order. If they are following a low-impact or minimalist lifestyle, it could just be another thing they have to pass it on to someone else.

We like people like us: try mirroring

We like people who are like us.

You’re probably familiar with the concept of mirroring your interlocutor’s action and body language in an important meeting or interview. We can also emulate this in our written communications by using the same types of language that they use.

How to do this?

Spend a bit of time lurking on social media and in forums where your ideal customers spend time and make a note of the words they use. Not only is this helpful from a copywriting point of view, but you may also unearth motivations you weren’t aware of.

More established brands can use customer reviews to understand how your customers speak about your products.

This is also helpful from a SEO point of view – if your customers talk about your black t-shirt being a ‘classic black top’, then you can integrate it into your SEO keyword plan.

Work with other changemakers to boost your credibility

Trust is pretty essential, I think you’d agree, for a brand that is build on strong values and ethics.

Especially when there is so much greenwashing going on out there.

But not only that – the Yale Attitude Change found that customers are more likely to convert with persuasive copy if there is credibility behind it.

You can boost your credibility by partnering with a celebrity – or other changemaker – within your advertising and communications.

For instance, I noticed that the biodegradable nappy brand Kit and Kin teamed up with Emma Bunton to promote their product. While for me the jury’s out on whether their nappies really are sustainable or just greenwashing (I’m a cloth nappy mum all the way), I find their choice of celebrity interesting.

Weaving celebrity endorsements into your copy may be one way for you bring your product to a more mainstream audience. It may be costly, but can reap great rewards.

Emma Bunton isn’t someone you would typically associate with the green movement, so I would argue it’s a smart move for a brand that wants to reach those who aren’t necessarily ‘committed greenies’.

They don’t necessarily need to be a big celebrity with a big price tag. You can also get a subject matter expert on board.

Another method is to back up your claims with statistics. But of course, make sure they are accurate and you’re not purposely using misinterpreting the numbers (Iknow I don’t need to tell you that but… well I don’t want to leave any stone unturned!).

Take a look at your tone

I would also argue that steering away from sensationalist language beloved of traditional copywriting can help foster a feeling of trust. If you use language that sounds natural and not overblown, it can help you create a friendship with the customer.

Are you a solopreneur? Then maybe you’d be better to put your face to the brand and stick with using the singular ‘I’ pronoun instead of the plural ‘we’. If you are just one person, there is no shame in sharing that.

Those of us who are based in the UK have this easier than most, since our market favours more down to earth and even self-deprecating wording.

Open up your vulnerable side and admit mistakes (or weaknesses)

Admitting mistakes can make you more likeable, and less of a horn-tooter – pretty helpful in the ethical brand space. If you mess up in your newsletter, or an order – why not hold up your hands and admit it?

Contrary to what you might expect, it can make you appear more in control and responsible – and it also shows your customers that you care.

Repelling can be compelling

I’ll end this post on one point which is completely contrary to most of what I’ve just said.

Yes, it is perfectly fine to repel customers In fact, it can make you even more appealing to the right customer. No need to pussyfoot around, trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings if the person in question is the complete opposite of your ideal customer.

This all goes back to what I said about mirroring – we like people who are like us, even more so if they have taken a side and are actively rooting for our team.

Just remember one thing. Repelling is fine, but it’s never OK to be a dick.

Need some help with your copywriting? Perhaps I can help! Drop me an email here – and for Italian businesses, sono tutt’orrecchi!