Sifting through marketing in all it’s forms is a burden for everyone, regardless of what we do to curtail it. It has no social benefit. It’s time to change it.
A call to action
We are in the midst of a cancel culture. I think everyone — right, left, and center — would be happy to ingest fewer ads. It took decades to reach this point. Let’s see if we can change the train tracks.
I will no longer purchase from any entity that does not adhere to my unsubscription, immediately. Not online, not physical locations. Give me another year, and any entity that continues to zombiefy my unsubscription or continues to automark that damned checkbox on purchase will also not get my repeat business. Give me two years, and even a third-party junk mail that refers to your product will get a hard pass for your business from me (sorry, Anderson Windows, your name is already shit on my list — the list of junk email with your name on it is already way too deep).
In short, marketing moving forward will be a self-afflicted signal of “this business is untrustworthy,” unless I let it know in a way that requires effort on my part that I would like to receive its marketing. It has to take at least as much effort to opt in as opt out.
Marketing as a permissible invasion of our attention, bandwidth, and focus has to go.
My personal vow, as one person, will mean exactly diddly squat. It will not change anything except adding to my work as companies self-select off my list of reasonable businesses. It’s only if enough people do it to prove a negative affect that it becomes something worth changing for businesses.
You want to sell to me? There are plenty of respectful options
Make a website with clear information supported by product research you didn’t invest in and/or spin. Make it easy for me to find when I am looking for exactly the kind of product or service you cover — and then follow through with the implications and promises. Be the product you say you are.
Stop aiming at those ‘adjacent’ products. If someone does a search for “sky & blue & paint”, don’t figure out how to make that also mean your pajamas.
Follow through on your product or service so well that people start talking about you. Remember that every time a person uses it — whether a shoe or software — they are reminded of both their good and bad experiences. Those overwhelm any marketing. If your product has issues, marketing only reminds us that its more important to you to spin & polish your image than fix an issue.
Allow honest reviews by third parties disinterested in your success or failures, without personal gain or an ersatz quid pro quo, to reign supreme again. Let the cookie crumble and your positives and negatives be realistically portrayed because, guess what, we live and work towards perfection.
Hyperbole. Just don’t. I won’t buy “greatest” “best” “perfect” “Number one” etc., ever again. There is no real way for you to know, the caveats are scurrilous, and I’m tired of trying to see past the spin to some semblance of truth. So instead I’ll just lable your business a liar & hyperbolist and pass, even if it looks like it might solve what I’m trying to solve.
What I’ve done and continue to do
Someone might want to try to believe that it’s my fault that I’ve hit the end of my rope with marketing, so here’s everything I’ve done.
I use subscription services for all media. I’ve turned off all Alexa notifications, even the ones I would find useful, to try to end the “you may be running low on…” impingements on my privacy. I immediately click out of any website with too many ads, popups, and/or negative UX. I’m on the DoNotCall registry, and have opted out of all direct mail (and still get it, all the time). I haven’t purchased a magazine in years. I am no longer on Facebook.
I’ve been working for 4 years to curtail and contain the massive glut of marketing emails; I have:
- Unsubscribed from every marketing email, including junk (note: still don’t do it, emails from brand spanking new sources upticked significantly)
- Purchased multiple email client programs to test
- Marked as junk inside email client programs I tested
- Unsubscribed from known, long-standing and/or trusted businesses (e.g., Crate and Barrel). It will generally reapply after any purchase.
- Unclicked every marketing email subscription on purchase (some still send, FYI)
I get on average 300 marketing emails per day, even with all this work. I have lost track of purchases, had work conversations go to junk mail, and lost personal email threads under the glut of marketing emails and how I’ve tried to curtail them.
Supporting email account setup
I’ve also specialized the use of specific email accounts. One is for purchasing, another is for Amazon, and a third is intended only for work and personal interaction.
- Purchasing: see above
- Amazon: emails from Amazon and any entity I purchased through my Amazon account. Subsellers on Amazon will not consistently respect my wishes.
- Work and personal interaction: Relatively clean after 3 years of work and strict use, minus a few zombie job applications/assumed knockons.
Some job applications will result in subscription to their marketing emails going forward, even after multiple unsubscription attempts. For one, I’ve been locked out of the system where I supposedly have control over what they send me. At this point, there is not anything that could force me to work for these businesses.
I think job applications are also the source for some of the junk emails that have made it through to this account. I can’t tell where the knockons are coming from, except for that one grad school to whom gave my name as Bob when the site insisted that I sign up for marketing to get a basic brochure. Yeah, grad schools will sell your name and email contact.
Supporting email client setup
In order to not miss emails from people I really, really want to see when they come in, I’ve set up a list of VIP’s. If they send from a program (e.g., they use a contact application, like Zoom, that sends from their system), it won’t be captured by that VIP list. It’s very imperfect. It’s not worth doing, if you’re thinking about it — it will give you a false sense of security.
I work hard to limit my exposure to marketing and find the signal in the noise, and still feel angry at how many hours in my week is spent on the forced ingestion of marketing.
Look at what marketing does to us
How many decades have we been complaining about unrealistic body standards in marketing? The message: mass negging.
How many decades have we had to work to manage our attention around ads? The message: attention is not owned by you, the experiencer; business owns it, and they prove it every time they produce another ad.
How many times do you hear every day that you are lesser and that a product or service can fix that? The message: mass negging.
How many times does the shiny ad or website lead to a purchase that feels usurious in its inability to follow through on the experience the communication implied? The message: you are a cash cow. Moo, bitch.
How much has the knowledge that marketing is a ‘spin’ contributed to misbelief as the status quo? The message: nothing is more important than profit. Moo, bitch.
These are our daily interactions. We are dehumanized, diminished to our mere ability to moo and shit out cash. Our confidence is attacked, and unthinking people will repeat the expectations set by marketing. We are not even granted the respect of choice for the ideas and information that are impressed upon our brains. Our daily fate is forced consumption of someone else’s priorities, core precepts, mental models, and information.