Have you ever visited a website that led you to actually act? A common experience could be signing up for a website that just felt too good to be true. Maybe the website sold you on an experience only their members could share, and you wanted to be a part of that experience. So in turn, you clicked the yellow button that said, “sign in to see my personalized recommendations” or “join free for a month”. It’s no secret that online business lead generation can be tough even as you’re presented with several marketing options, but one thing to stray away from is using dark patterns.
But first, let’s get ourselves acquainted with dark patterns and why marketers shouldn’t engage with them.
A formal introduction to dark patterns involves some of the internet’s most popular examples. If you’ve ever read “sign in to see my personalized recommendations”, you’ve probably seen that on Amazon. And “join free for a month”? That’s Netflix.
Dark patterns are, as defined by darkpatterns.org, tricks used in websites and apps to make you buy or sign up for things you did not intend to. Some familiar patterns include making you sign up more easily than you can deactivate your account, or giving you free trials for a limited time but charging the next few sessions to your credit card without notifying the user.
As a marketer, you’d be tempted to think it sounds fantastic being able to get signups with different tricks. Ethically speaking, however, good marketing means building relationships and maintaining trust with your audience. Now, it all comes down to this: how do you know when your strategies are crossing the line?
At its core, dark patterns are just impressive marketing tactics. After all, consumers love free trials and hate when you put into light the subject of a credit card payment. But you can turn dark patterns into honest strategies, which can help sustain trust and a clean reputation for your brand—the things that matter in the long run.
Here are the different dark patterns and how you can counter them.
This is a popular lead generation method where users are able to sign in very easily but have a hard time deactivating or unsubscribing. YouTube user Evan Puschak noted how easily he signed up for Amazon, but couldn’t find one button that could lead him to deactivate his account.
This method usually includes a bright CTA button that persuades users to purchase or sign up for something, and no options to “get out” of the scheme.
Tweak this strategy into being more honest by offering your users visible options. It’s easier to include a “cancel” button than putting up with dozens of angry phone calls or emails to customer support.
Sometimes marketers offer free trials for a limited time to get users to pay for more experience. Sometimes, users get cheated when they don’t notice their monthly bill’s numbers increasing because of a subscription they didn’t pay attention to. But they’re not entirely to blame, either.
A way to turn this into an honest tactic is to notify users about the trials ending. It won’t actually mean you’ll lose your customers because while some aren’t as happy to pay for more, others are. They will appreciate that you’re giving them choices though.
This one is named after Mark Zuckerberg, in case you thought “zuckering” was an actual thing. This is when users are tricked into publicly sharing their information more than they intended to.
Here’s why this is just downright illegal: when you use a store card, for example, in the Terms and Conditions everyone skips, there’s a small print that permits the data brokerage industry to sell users’ personal data to anyone. This may include users’ physical and mental health.
Don’t use this method to sell your audiences’ personal information to anyone. It’s just absolutely illegal.
Like I’ve mentioned before, at its core, dark patterns are just smart marketing strategies. When dark patterns become dishonest, they could mean the destruction of your brand’s image and the loss of your current and possible customers’ trust. With the help of a lead generation service provider, you can be sure the methods for generating leads are not only honest but also effective.