The Ethics Of Persuasion: A Gentle Reminder On Being Transparent To Our Target Market

If you want to make a dent in the digital marketing scene, you have to think of various means to capture the audience’s attention, and it’s just about tingling their curiosity. You have to earn their commitment and their utmost engagement. Once you have them engrossed on your website, it’s time to make the sale. But, how can you do that?


Ok, let’s break it down. In digital marketing scene, your efforts as a business starts with strategic search engine optimization to make sure that the users will see you once they search for your business or industry. Now, once they see your name on the list of search results, they will be routed on your website. Then… now what? How could you entice those users, who’s already in your site, to purchase your products? Enter: the power of persuasion.


In an era where digital access has become second nature to people, using persuasive tactics in marketing a product can come in handy. But in today’s world of fake news, online scams, phishing attacks, online security issues, and data breaches, people have become more cautious of these techniques especially if they know that this is not beneficial for them.


Let’s go back to our previous example. The user is already in your site and trying to look for the information that he needs. If your website doesn’t look credible and reliable, that user will just click back to results page and will visit another website. It’s a loss opportunity for you.


In digital marketing, we convince people to purchase or avail our products and services through our websites and other digital campaigns. And do you know who are responsible for doing that? No, not the strategists nor the marketers. It’s actually the web designers and developers. Yes, that’s right. They are the ones who has the final say when it comes to checking if your company’s campaign approach is good or if it’s starting to look like a scam.


That’s why, to become more effective in convincing people online, it’s important to have a basic knowledge with basic persuasion tactics. Honestly, persuasion is not a new technique. It’s been around for ages. Can you still remember Aristotle’s rhetoric where he presented the modes of persuasion? He said:



“Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.”


In layman’s term, Aristotle is pointing out that to be able to persuade other people, you have to appear credible. And how are you going to do that? By designing a website that looks credible, and is credible.


Now, let’s go back to the tactics of persuasion. We mentioned that you need to get the user’s engagement and commitment to be effective. And many websites are overdoing “persuasion” up to the point that it’s being misused. That’s why it’s necessary to observe the ethics in persuasion. It’s basically an unspoken standard to make sure that you are not crossing to the dark side. Oh, yeah black hat and white hat is not just for SEO. It can also be used in web design. Basically, it’s categorised as white hat if the design is transparent and it gives mutual benefits, while a black hat is when it’s the opposite.


To better penetrate the audience, you should know what their needs are and which of those you can use as a tool to persuade them. For instance in this era, people are more fascinated in using their mobile devices for almost everything. To be able to convince them, you should consider their behavior and motivation when using the mobile devices. From there, you can come up with an effective persuasion tactic.


Using these techniques is not wrong. It’s actually necessary. If you are aiming for user engagement, it’s really important to come up with strategies to capture their attention. But you have to keep in mind that using persuasive methods can change people’s minds or behavior. That’s why you should have a clear understanding of the ethical implications and the impact of your work to the user, especially if you are intentionally using persuasion techniques in your designs.


But to make sure that you will keep doing what’s ethical, here are some pointers for you to remember:


  • Remember that your design can affect the minds, behaviors, and lives of your user. Do not take it out of your mind while creating your designs. Do not do any harm such as getting too much information from them in return for just accessing your website.
  • Be accurate and honest in your designs. Do not cheat or engage in any fraudulent activities. Trust us, you can convince them without deceiving them.
  • Respect people’s privacy. Give your visitors an option to opt out from providing any of their personal information. And in case you will be getting it, make sure to protect it intensely and with utmost confidentiality.



Well, Basically…

All you need to do is to be clear, credible, and to not lure your audience to a disadvantage. As a web designer or developer, it’s your responsibility to stand up for your users. Be transparent; do no harm; and design in an ethical manner.