The 4 Favorite Techniques of Web Marketers

The line between marketing and manipulation is blurred


Houssem Sadki

3 years ago | 11 min read

Creators on Unsplash

Over the years I had my fair share of people pitching me books, products, affiliate marketing links, trading gurus, writing gurus, cause these days everybody became experts and know it alls, I even fell for some of them to be honest cause you can’t even make the difference between what’s real and what’s fake.

This self-proclamation of expertise and know-how made marketing a tricky technique for the buyer and the seller and in an instance, the fine line between influence and manipulation can disappear.

Manipulation Or Influence?

So as not to get our brushes tangled, let’s clear up one thing first. I can see the influence of manipulation. To define what manipulation is, I rely on Paul Ekman’s definition of lying in “I Know You Are Lying”, although manipulation does not necessarily imply lying.

To manipulate is to seek to influence others without being aware of this influence. This insidious, stealthy character is precisely what distinguishes the attempt to manipulate from the attempt to influence.

For example, if I explicitly tell you that I am going to attempt to convert you to my political views, and after that announcement, I put forward factual arguments, that is an attempt to influence.

If I intentionally use spurious arguments, this is an attempt at manipulation.

The case where an interlocutor uses biased arguments without knowing it, therefore, does not fall within the definition of manipulation.

Sales page, web marketing, and bladders disguised as lanterns
The infopreneurial model — that is to say, selling information rather than consumer goods, an activity which has the immense advantage of being declined in dematerialized products such as mp3 or e-book s— is particularly conducive to manipulation techniques.


Storytelling is as much a technique of influence as it is a technique of manipulation. Indeed, the story told may be true or made up for the occasion.

Moreover, even in the case of a true story, the choice to introduce or not this storytelling by a note of intention (“I think that if I tell you what happened to me you will line up with my point of view. view ”) constitutes the tipping point between influence and manipulation.

A perfect illustration of the power of storytelling is the speech delivered by Barack Obama in Hanoi in May 2016.

The then-incumbent president begins his speech by recounting his visit to the city, evoking the typical dish he tasted (“last night enjoyed some Vietnamese food, tried some bun cha “) and motorcycle traffic of which he” has never seen the equivalent in any other city

Then he talks about his childhood in Hawaii to explain that he and his audience — he uses the pronoun “we” — have known nothing but peace.

A clever way to gain the sympathy of the audience through anecdotes, then to create a deeper bond by involving everyone, the President of the United States, and the Vietnamese, to share a common experience.

Let us come back, however, to less dramatic issues than the lifting of the arms embargo, the main subject of Hanoi’s speech. In infopreneurs and in particular, in coaching, storytelling is used to achieve two specific objectives.

a. I understand you, trust me
The first is to get the potential customer to identify with the seller. If I sell hypnotic training to you that is supposed to improve your relationship to money, telling you how I experienced poverty will create a sense of connection between us.

This is exactly the mechanism that Barack Obama tries to activate through the account of his childhood in Hawaii in a world without the Vietnam War.

b. If I am here today, my method is working
The two-in-one effect of storytelling in the case of our training on the topic of money is that if I explain to you that I have known poverty, in addition to the potential bond that it builds, the simple the fact that I am today this entrepreneur who has a nice landing page proves that I managed to get out of this state which is still yours. What you can call the “living proof” effect.

2. The Build-Up

Storytelling can be part of building a much larger sales pitch. Here, translate “vast” by “long”. Very long. The word build-up can be translated as “accumulation”, “intensification”, or directly as “advertising campaign”.

It comes from the verb “to build” which means to build, and indeed it is responsible for this notion of construction.

We also find the build-up in the codes and techniques of cinema. A build-up is a dramatic rise. It’s about building tension so that the outcome of the plot equates to a release from that tension, even if the release comes in blood and tears.

There can also be smaller-scale build-ups, within a single scene. If you’re looking for an example of a masterfully crafted film-scale build-up, American Beauty offers a great example.

And for a stage-scale build-up, the reception and suspense surrounding the champagne case in Alfred Hitchcock’s Les Enchaînés remain a monument of cinematic goldsmithing.

And in web marketing, you will tell me? Let’s take the example of our hypnosis training supposed to improve your relationship with money.

You click on my promotional link, a link posted for example on Facebook, and you land on my pretty sales page. There, without any price clearly stated, a presentation video awaits your potential customer click. You click.

The previously mentioned storytelling begins. You might imagine that after sharing my story with you, I will introduce my product to you, but no. In my honeyed amateur hypnotist voice, I change the subject.

Now I’m talking about you, your hopes, your thwarted desires, your money problems. This is your chance to repeat that I have had the same problems as you.

Finally, I address the subject of this training, in vague terms or by mentioning what it will bring you (“thanks to this training you will finally be able to offer your loved ones those vacations they dream of and which you so need.” turn up the sauce, slowly, very slowly, and after 10 minutes of video you still not know the content of the training or its price Welcome to the land of the build-up.

Send me your details so that I bequeath you my fortune

You have to be particularly patient or completely desperate to sit around 20 minutes in front of a video empty of content in the hope of having the end of the story. Astonishing? No. This is a voluntary choice on the part of the seller. Have you ever wondered why the famous ‘African scams’ used such coarse strings? To select the most gullible people.

If I have a product to sell, for example, a training course, my reflex is to produce a video or a sales page as synthetic as possible.

Spontaneously, I do not see the point of starting with 15 minutes of build-up in this time when attention time is as vital a resource for the entrepreneur who wants to sell as for the citizen who wants to improve his quality of life.

By practicing a healthy informational diet. We’re saturated with information, so mighty be impactful if I want to sell, right? Except that the longer the build-up, the more moderately interested people will desert the commercial video before the end.

This also means that those who have watched it to the end will be the most likely to buy the product, even if it means exceeding the budget that they would have found legitimate to invest in said product.

The length — often interminable — of the build-up selects the most gullible, or quite simply those whose curiosity was most piqued by the initial storytelling. A kind of double-handed approach is used because it works on people less trained to recognize manipulation.

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3. And That’s Not All: Knockdown Prices And Invaluable Bonuses

You just gave yourself 21 minutes of how-to video on “Attract Money Through Hypnosis” training. Twenty-one minutes, including five of storytelling.

You’re hooked — how else would you be there, if not to do your own business intelligence? — and you will finally know the price of this training.

Provided and it is not too expensive …

a. That’s not all!

You will still have to wait before you find out how much you would have to shell out if you were to invest in this training.

While you think you are done with this build-up worthy of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit, the honeyed voice announces that “that’s not all, in addition to this training I have decided to offer you …” and the inventory begins.

A free e-book on the art of getting rich — which will turn out to be a 3-page PDF — a second training on self-hypnosis motivation, as well as a video conference “invaluable” was included in the pack “Improve your relationship to money blah”. Isn’t that wonderful?

A technique well-known to web marketers and psychologists who studied social engineering, the “that’s-not-all” — sometimes called “and that’s not all!” — is part of the staple arsenal of any self-respecting street hawker. Its effectiveness is based on two mechanisms.

First, create in the target the impression of a unique opportunity that should not be missed. “The line-up looked interesting, but on top of that there were lots of bonuses, I couldn’t miss this opportunity…”

Then the “that’s-not-all” activates the obligation of reciprocity. The anecdote comes from Dale Carnegie, author of the bestseller — I would never understand why this book sells so well.

On the holiday season, he sent greeting cards to people who did not know him. Surprised, he found that the majority of them wrote back to wish him a happy new year, out of politeness.

The obligation of reciprocity is at the heart of complex social constructions. The gift has often been studied by ethnologists, and the notion of counter-gift theorized by Marcel Mauss in his famous Essay on the gift.

Note that Mauss considered one of the most influential authors in the French anthropological school, never went into the field.

For a more contemporary look at reciprocity in human exchanges, I suggest you turn to transactional analysis, an oh-so-brilliant psychological theory, unfortunately, eclipsed in France by the hegemony of psychoanalysis.

Getting back to “and-that’s-not-everything!” from our web marketer, the obligation of reciprocity will manifest itself in the mind of the target in the form of the following thought: “it’s so generous of him to offer me all these supplements, I will not refuse his offer ”.

Photo by Diggity Marketing on Unsplash

b. Inestimable bonus

I will spare you the enticing digression on what makes or not the price of goods and services. This will be an opportunity to discuss the notion of perceived value in a future article, among other things.

Still, among the bonuses that allow you to apply the not-everything technique, some will have a clearly stated price in currency, and others “invaluable.”

Note that even the numerical bonuses will have a higher price than what you will be asked in the end.

In the case of our invaluable e-book + Self-Hypnosis Motivation Training + Video Lecture combo, the self-hypnosis training will be presented to you as usually sold for 147 euros. However, the training about which you initially consulted the sales page costs … 117 euros.

This is the amount you will be asked for the “Improve Your Relationship with Money …” training AND its bonuses.

You read that correctly, the price of training that has become a “special pack” over the course of the presentation is lower than that of one of its bonuses. How to refuse such an offer? Especially since…, that’s not all!

Asserting that such a product would be of “inestimable value” — which is open to debate — makes it possible to make the sum that will ultimately be requested in exchange for the dematerialized product or service offered to appear ridiculous.

If my coaching services are invaluable, will I ask you for 55,000 euros for one hour of coaching?

The broken price, a sensory manipulation
I left out a detail. Between the presentation of the price of the various bonuses and the revelation of the final cost of the training for which you decidedly invest too much time, our infopreneur/web marketer / Camelot 2.0 will have explained to you in substance that “this training on the relation to money is so effective — and its immeasurable value.

4. The Time Constraint

Slashed prices work. If they were permanently broken, it would mean a decrease in the intrinsic value of the product and not a promotion. This is what high tech products experience cyclically.

Of course, a definitive drop in a price may lead some consumers to buy, but nothing forces them to take action once the price reduction takes effect. Which brings us to the most common technique in the sales and B2C world, the time constraint.

Is this a technique of influence or a technique of manipulation? After all, when you go on sale you know these promotions are meant to push you into buying, right? Why would it be any different on the sales page of a digital product?

The time constraint manifests itself in the ordinary form of promotions, those about which you receive prospectuses despite the “stop advertising” pasted in your mailbox.

In mass distribution, it finds its climax in flash sales. No more lamb at 10 € until the end of the month touted every hour on commercial radios, here you only have the next 15 minutes to take advantage of the batch of Beaugosse Forever eight-blade razors at less 60% the pack of eight.

The time constraint works. Not on everyone, like most manipulations. Whether we are happy or worried about it, experiments in social psychology rarely — ever, to my knowledge — indicate 100% proportions of people influenced *.

There are always people, even in a minority proportion who resist the manipulation techniques used. Nevertheless, the time constraint affects a sufficient part of the consumers for you yourselves, perhaps, to have been influenced by it. Do you have a memory of compulsive buying in your mind?

In the case of the Stanford experiment, it can be argued that 100% of the guards had become torturers, but things are more subtle and this experiment cannot provide scientific certainty due to its unique occurrence.

One can also object that the intervention of Christina Maslach to put an end to the experiment shows that 100% of the observers did not remain without intervening, but I digress.

To maximize the sense of urgency induced by the time constraint, web marketers and infopreneurs will recommend that you install a counter displaying a count under the current promotion (s), as is the case on the Amazon site.

The timescale will always be greater than that of a flash sale: People have lives, and even the most invested part of your audience won’t read your newsletter within 15 minutes of its publication. Promotional offer spread over a week or over three days, the time constraint will be present and always combined with lower prices.

The 4 Favorite Manipulation Techniques of Web Marketers: Summary


By using a personal story in a sales pitch or political speech, create a sense of community or connection with the audience. Also allows you to introduce a serious topic by starting with a lighter anecdotal story. Systematically used in Ted Talks.

the build-up:

Make an exhibition on a product with as much suspense as possible to stimulate the curiosity of the target. The longer the exposure, the more it filters out the undecided, like a scam, which makes it possible to select the fringe of the audience that is most easily influenced. Often starts with storytelling.

The “that’s-not-all”:

Add additional and unrelated products to the original purchase intent to give the target the impression of a unique opportunity. Also allows us to play on the obligation of reciprocity. May include “priceless” gifts, if priceless, and given it’s truly a golden opportunity, right?


Advertise higher prices than those which will ultimately be asked so that the only targets get affected. Also available in a non-financial way are street encounters made by various dredgers/searchers, for example, “you know that you are not allowed to be there? Just kidding, am coming to talk to you because you’re charming / because I work for NGO n ° 17530 ”.

The time constraint:

Include a time limit in a business proposal to generate a sense of urgency. This feeling directs our cognitive mechanisms to what Daniel Kahneman calls System 1 (intuitive and automatic thinking) as opposed to System 2 (logical and conscious thinking). If the target does not make a conscious effort to comprehensively assess the situation, it risks giving way to the cognitive loss aversion bias and

First appeared here


Created by

Houssem Sadki

Navy Hydrographic Engineer and GIS Specialist and looking to become adata scientist







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