All that follows in this post and in Part 2 is my own personal opinion.
Something is happening in the Digital Marketing industry.
There has been a shift in recent years, calling out and shaming so-called ‘Bro Marketing’ tactics for being unethical at best and downright untruthful at worst.
Now we’re seeing fewer examples of this (but I am regularly retargeted for these ads from some knobhead who didn’t get that memo, so it’s still going on), but something else, something potentially far more malicious has risen to take its place, and it’s frankly very unsettling and ewww.
In this post, I’m going to talk about Bro Marketing for the uninitiated, the new ewww BFF marketing we’re seeing and its disturbing implications and finally what we need to do as online business owners.
Wtf is Bro Marketing Anyway?
Bro Marketing has been coined as an umbrella term for the sleazy sales tactics of a lot of online businesses. In particular those who show you pictures of their lambourghinis, picturebook houses, perfect hair, big white teeth (all the better to eat you with!), maybe a cute little kid on one hip as they run their 17 fig biz from their phones, all whilst offering to show YOU how you can replicate their success in a free webinar/ masterclass/ downloadable.
Wow, thanks! Li’l old me?! Could I???
Of course you could – anybody can! I’ll show you how!
Great! Where do I sign up???
Bro Marketing is particularly problematic because:
– It involves ‘dick-swinging‘ and using sales/net worth as a measure of success…
– Whilst simultaneously ignoring/denying/refusing to acknowledge the privilege which has enabled this success. These privileges are normally things like being born into wealth, being white, cisgender, neurotypical or otherwise not marginalised and not being the main breadwinner. (This is by no means exhaustive – the list literally goes on forever)
– It insinuates (and in some cases actually outright states) that hard work is the main thing you need to succeed, thereby implying (and again, some of them will outright state this) that if you’re not as successful as you want to be, you’re simply not doing the work.
The key features of Bro Marketing are bragging, fake urgency/scarcity, aggressive marketing and language, A LOT OF CAPITALS and vague promises of 6/7 figure businesses without actual tangible strategies… Here’s a quick video parody of Bro Marketing from the fabulous Rachael Kay Albers…
One of our readers actually had a really valid point when he said
‘Are you saying that you’ve never used any of these tactics?‘
He wasn’t being argumentative at all, but it really made me think.
Yes, we totally have used some of these ‘strategies’ because, well he said this himself ‘Isn’t it just the way marketing is?!‘ but actually, no. Marketing does not have to be like this, all fake ‘secrets’ and hype…
So, yeah Bro Marketing is pretty shitty, but in recent months something new has come into play. To be fair, it’s probably something that has been happening all along, but recent global events (for once, not Covid) have brought it to light much sooner than it would otherwise have been exposed.
I’m talking about BFF or BBF Marketing. At least that’s what I’m calling it. I don’t think there’s a name. Well probably there is, but I
can’t be arsed googling it don’t know it.
BFF is Best Friend Forever, and BBF is Business Best Friend.
(Quite unlike Lesley and I who are work-wives and have an actual marriage-like relationship, which involves no sex, petty arguments and some passive-aggressive voice messages (usually from me))
This type of marketing is basically when a few hard-hitters in the online business world collaborate, promote each others’ programmes, become affiliates for each other (for money) and get in front of each others’ audiences. People like Amy Porterfield, Jenna Kutcher and Rachel Hollis for example (and these are just the high profile ones).
Seems like a good idea, right?! Their audiences probably kind of overlap, they’re teaching different but similar things and so everyone wins, right?
The Problems With BFF Marketing
Tl;dr – here’s a handy list:
1. Profit over integrity
2. Not holding BFFs accountable
3. Selling lies and denying privilege
4. Everyone is in bed with everyone else
Done right, this type of collaborative marketing can be so powerful and beneficial to all involved. The problems occur when one or more of these people behaves in a way which is unpalatable, undesirable or even outright wrong, and no-one calls them out on it because there’s too much money at stake.
I’m talking about things like:
– Jenna Kutcher‘s white saviourism and the mess that ensued on IG after she was called out;
– Rachel Hollis being cancelled for numerous offences, including repeatedly plagiarising other peoples’ work (particularly women of colour), posting an obscenely offensive video and then blaming her team in a series of text-based Instagram posts;
– Stu McLaren’s alleged refusal to enter into uncomfortable conversations about the cultural appropriation of the term Tribe;
– ClickFunnels founder Russell Brunson referencing Adolf Hitler as an inspiration for building a following in his book Expert Secrets;
– James Wedmore‘s alleged support for Trump and QAnon (and refusal to comment on it);
– Marie Forleo closing down discussions on #BLM in her alumni group (full of people who had paid $2000 for her course), stating ‘My team aren’t working this weekend‘;
And all of these people affiliating for each other.
It’s not all behaviour that revolves around #BLM, but also attitudes and actions which are dripping with privilege and completely unrelatable for the majority.
If this happened in real-life, someone making a racist or ignorant comment, a friend saying something that was just a bit off, we’d all like to think that we’d call it out, even when the stakes are low. At the very least, we’d stop hanging around with them…
But when money (literally millions of dollars) is on the table, this doesn’t happen. They may distance themselves a bit from one another, but there’s a remarkable lack of direct address, no condemnation, sometimes just a vague acknowledgement that ‘we still need to learn‘ or ‘we’re only human‘ (more on that pathetic excuse later).
Coupled with the sleazy collaborations, the selling to each others’ audiences and the Bro Marketing tactics (oh yes, they’re still being used by BFFs!), we have a very toxic mix.
A mix that tells us if we just do the work, ignore our privilege (or lack thereof) and pay the money, we really can have it all. (And by implication if we don’t have it all yet, then it’s down to us not doing the work)
Years ago I remember seeing a Saturday Night Live type programme when one of the guests (I think it was Steve Martin) remarked that fans thought that all celebrities knew each other, when obviously they didn’t.
Except in the online marketing world, where it seems that everyone does know everyone else, they follow each other, make money off of each other (selling a big lie), holiday together, date each others’ ex-husbands (ewww), join the same masterminds and they’ve all got a ClickFunnels affiliate link and a copy of Unlimited Power on their bedside tables….