How Exploiting the Spamber Alert and Heartlessly Reveling In Unethical Marketing Will Unforgivingly Burn You In The Long Run

I will never forget that blunt marketing email I received, 'way back when.

Actually, that's a blatant lie. 

I've forgotten EVERYTHING about it except for the one teeny tiny following fact – it used the national Amber Alert to try and sell whatever was being hawked at that time.

Talk about getting violently sick to my stomach!  I immediately unsubscribed to that marketer and never considered his products again.


"EVER" as in, there went 9+ years of buying potential products POOF! into the moonlight!


What I did.  I voted with my wallet!

See, there are some things you simply should NEVER do in your marketing.  And pushing the emotional button of "My gosh, what a scummy action, someone PLEASE give me Lysol to clean my inbox"….that certainly falls under that category, wouldn't you agree?

'course you would!  And if you don't, you're guilty of….



Exercising your own free will and making your OWN decisions!

Mercy me!  How DARE you!

I mean, let's get serious here.  How DARE you come up with a definition of 'unethical' that differs from mine!! 

After all, the whole dynamic Internet revolves around ME, you know.  Fact is, whatever I choose to write about – once my opinions are inscribed in the solidity of the Net, they are entered into the authentic Laws of the Known Universe for the next 17 eternities!

What's that? 

They AREN'T?

You mean that not only am I allowed to have my own opinion, but (gasp!) you are TOO?

Even if it dares to differ from mine?

Wow.  What you said.

It's so true.  And I bet you that right now, you're thinking to yourself, Jeepers Barb, what on earth got you writing this rather bizarre blog post?

A fantastic question indeed!  It all started long long ago, in a galaxy far far away this morning.  I had actually slept for more than 1.7 hours (ring out wild bells!) and was going thru me feed reader when a 17 ton anvil dropped on my left toe and made me do a double take at what I was reading.

To be honest, the above internal conversation with myself actually did happen when I was reading the diverse and thought-provoking comments over at:

The Ethics of Whoring Your Storytelling

and was inspired to share my own ideas.  Go ahead and click over and read read read – I'll wait.  Perhaps I'll make my 49th cup of coffee as well.  Oh, and I do need to start writing my nifty neato book on video marketing to boot!  Don't worry about me, I'll still be here when you return.

In the meanwhile, how about some relaxing Tetris music?  (the gloriousness starts at around :39 or so…woot!)

Oh you're back! 

Welcome back, wasn't that a fantastic collection of comments to read or what?

It's a shame it had to deteriorate into making things personal, because to me, that really dilutes from the topic as a whole.

See, when you dabble in what OTHERS consider unethical marketing, they'll talk about either unethical marketing as a whole, or you in particular.  Plain and simple, that's a fact of Internet life.

==> But…is that really so bad?

Well, for me, unethical marketing IS bad.  And I vote with my wallet – any vendor who offends me to that point simply loses me as a customer.

Fancy that.


For others who have different values than me (how dare they!), you do what you want to do to get the sale.

That personally frosts my petunias bigtime…but again, that's ME.

Not the entire world (although it should be.  🙂  )

And that gives rise to:

Enter: The Spamber Alert.

That's the name I just came up with. It simply means pushing marketing so PAST the UNETHICAL stage, it would make:

  • Machiavelli go a delightful shade of pondscum verdigris
  • Scar incorporate it into his plans for overthrowing the Circle of Life
  • Attila the Hun weep with admiration

You get what I mean, right?

  • It's story telling that exploits tragedies to get you to open the email.
  • It's story telling that engages the heart of the reader for one honorable purpose and then does a bait-and-switch to whatever product is being marketed.

Now, story telling, or story selling, can definitely be a great boon to one's marketing!  Heck, I myself have just started dabbling in it – you can see that over at my salescopy for 21 Easy Steps For Putting Your Business Online…in LESS than 24 Hours (and yes, that picture there IS my coffeecup.  And yes, I still DO have some of the chess sets).

But you always want to story sell so that you get the RIGHT call to action:

  • "OMIGOSH, where is my credit card I wanna buy NOW NOW NOW!"

instead of the WRONG call to action:

  • "OMIGOSH this marketer is so icky let me tell 29,384 other people about her/him/the moose/etc.!"

There are some excellent resources for story selling including:

And of course, the above brings me to the main point of this post:

How can YOU ensure you don't cross the ethical marketing line?

In essence, you really can't.

Wasn't that simple?  🙂  But seriously, given that you cannot avoid offending SOMEONE SOMEWHERE when you least expect it, the facts are…you'll unintentionally cross the line.

And when that happens….don't immediately REACT.  Instead, sit down and think about:

  • What was the offense perceived?  (and remember, even if you think it's completely off the wall, the offense is completely valid to the offended party.  So apologize for the unintentional offense but stick by your beliefs.)
  • How is the person dealing with it? (is the offended person blogging about it?  If so, visit the blog and apologize for the unintentional offense (NOTE!  Do NOT apologize for your own beliefs, of course.  That's personal and you have every right to them).  I'm big on taking ownership of actions, and when you apologize in public, you're demonstrating your maturity and the customer care. 
  • Is there any damage control I need to do? (send email, give a phone call, write an apology, etc.  Again – it costs nothing to validate the offended person's feelings, without apologizing for your own beliefs).

Plan your actions from the above.

And if YOU'RE on the receiving end (ie, you get offended by someone's marketing/blog posts etc.), do the following:

  • Take ownership of your feelings.  The writer didn't cause you to feel whatever way – you chose to react that way.
  • Ask yourself, why AM I feeling this way?  Is there any validity to the original post?  If so, how can I learn from it?  If not, how can I communicate that  professionally and effectively?
  • Engage the writer politely.  Chances are that unless the writer is a bully, there was no intent to insult/offend/etc.  So engage the writer and discuss it respectfully.  Words are powerful, and if you come across as you're 100% innocent and the writer is the evil Ogre from Care Bears Land, you'll just self-combust and not come to any effective resolution whatsoever.

In closing, never indulge in the Spamber Alert Marketing School of Ickness.  It's a deal-killer every way imaginable.  But if by chance someone accuses you of that…take control of the situation, apologize for the mis-communications and move on.

We all will never agree, but we all can be civil indeed.


Barbara Ling

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