Phone Addiction, Design Manipulation and How it All Relates to Marketing

I’m in the middle of reading How to Break-Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life by Catherine Price.

Which seems like an extreme title except for the fact that I, like most people, am a bit too attached to my little device.

Like when I realize I spent 45 extra minutes scrolling Instagram instead of going to bed. Or when not-so-mild panic sets in after not seeing my email in over an hour.

The irony? I’m reading the goddamn book on my phone!!

One step forward. Eight steps backward.

But my issues are neither here nor there. Kinda.

What I really want to talk about is the parallel between design and copy manipulation.

You see, there’s all these different ways our phones and apps are designed to keep up engaged and wanting more.

Like on Instagram, where the app is designed to withhold showing your “likes” until the right time. The right time being JUST when you are about to log off…oh and that time was selected by an algorithm based on your behavior.

While it’s easy to point fingers and call companies “evil” it’s human nature to focus on what’s right in front of us. It’s complicated. And it’s hard to sync your moral compass if there isn’t an obvious North Star.

And it got me thinking about how we as marketers use psychology and persuasion to create action. In many ways, it feels like we too are fighting for a short-term win. We all have moral limits but they can often feel undefined, tethered to a frisky North Star.

My guidepost, stolen from the oft-quoted Seth Godin, is to ask whether the customer will have buyer’s remorse after purchasing the product or service I’m writing copy for. If the answer is yes, I won’t move ahead.

But I’ve been wrong. And I try and be better next time. I’m evolving as a business owner and marketer. It’s tricky.

And as a marketer, I think the most powerful thing we can all do is avoid reducing customers to one-dimensional avatars. This forces us to consider them as people and not solely as conversion opportunities. It keeps us grounded in the present and hopefully the future.

This is all to say, I’m working on my relationship with my phone.

And I hope “tech” is working on their relationship with their customers. Because manipulation for the sake of manipulation isn’t a world I’m stoked about. But a world where empathy leads design and marketing decisions…that may be another thing entirely.

With that, let’s put down our phones until we get a tad uncomfortable and get a little bored together.

Like this musing? There’s more where that came from! Join my list The Zest which not only has thoughtful pieces like this, but also links to articles I love about copywriting and everything else. Plus there’s music.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Real Reasons I Became a 1% for the Planet Member

Live shot of my financial meetings.

One of the best parts of owning your own business?

Getting to choose how you spend your money.

For me, that means aligning my cash with causes and people I believe in — treating business as an engine of progress.

In my life, that means designating part of my revenue to support the progress I believe in. But 6 months into conversion copywriting and I still hadn’t figured out how this would look in practice.

That’s because the uneven cash flow of a new business meant that regular monthly donations were too burdensome on my bank account, bookkeeping, and limited time. So I looked for other ways to create consistency in my business giving.

Corporate Environmental Giving —A Huge Opportunity

Get this, 3% of philanthropic giving in the U.S. is for environmental causes. And only 3% of this 3% (whoa) is coming from the business community.

1% for the Planet is working change these stats.

Corporate Environmental Giving —A Huge Opportunit

1%Member_VerticalLogo_Color.jpg

Get this, 3% of philanthropic giving in the U.S. is for environmental causes. And only 3% of this 3% (whoa) is coming from the business community.

1% for the Planet is working change these stats.

Wait!

Let’s back up for a quick primer on the org: 1% for the Planet is a network of nonprofit members working to protect the environment. The mission is to increase the amount of money going to protect the planet. How? By asking businesses to contribute 1% of their total annual sales to grassroots environmental groups. Contributions can include financial donations, volunteer time, in-kind donations, and other shared-value collaborations.

With this ethos in mind, here’s why I joined 1%:

Inclusive for Small Businesses

Did you know that any size business can join 1% for the Planet? I didn’t.

I always saw the logo on products I love like King Arthur Flour, Purely Elizabeth, and Fat Tire and assumed it was for products-based companies of a certain size (re: not mine).

As a young, service-based business, I didn’t think 1% would be a good fit. Scratch that. I didn’t think about 1% at all.

Joining never even crossed my mind.

My business was simply too small. Too service-y. Too much conversion copywriting. Too few delicious foods.

It wasn’t until I attended a 1% event in San Francisco that I realized my fundamental misconception: 1% for the Planet is deliberately inclusive of small businesses of all ilks. It’s inclusive of all environmentally-minded businesses.

It’s baked into their model, “we can do more all together than we can alone.” And as I scan through the growing list of business partners I see just how wrong I was — I see everything from food to facilities maintenance.

So yes, a new service-based business fit right in.

Scalable — As Your Business Grows So Does Your Opportunity for Impact

Whereas other organizations have minimum donation requirements, the 1% model makes sense for an evolving business like mine.

Not quuuuuuuite there yet. 

I joined 1% for the Planet 6 months after launching my company. Any entrepreneur knows that 6 months into any business is like dealing with an infant who just learned how to crawl. It’s on the move, but it’s awkward.

With that awkwardness in mind, I joined 1% knowing that as my business grows, my commitment and role in the 1% community can (and will) evolve.

With the 1% model, I don’t have to worry about my contributions being directly tied to monthly cash flow. Instead, at the end of the year I can look back and see how much I can contribute while providing other kinds of services and support throughout the year.

Since business members can offer support in ways that extend beyond strict monetary donations, small businesses can make a significant and diverse impact.

In a world where more can feel like the only way forward, it’s empowering to recognize the value of your business at any size.

And what a relief — because I could make good on my values without sacrificing my business.

Giving gets simplified

A not so dirty secret: it takes a lot to run a small business. So wherever possible, I do my best to integrate and automate. It’s easy enough with things like scheduling and email reminders, but when it comes to my money — it’s trickier.

The accountability and options with 1% for the Planet make it easy to do what I say I am going to do — which is use my business to help protect the environment. By collecting contributions annually, I am not stressed calculating monthly payments.

Plus with contributions that extend beyond financial support like volunteer hours and in-kind donations, it’s easier to stay aligned with my values and make the most significant impact I can as my business grows.

Yup. It strengthens my brand

Let’s not deny it. A benefit to having that 1% logo on my site? It aligns me with my ideal customer.

The logo offers proof of my values without having to shove it down anyone’s throat. And as much as I believe in the power of words, sometimes a picture is all you need to get a message across.

This is precisely what I want — to quickly and easily connect with purpose-driven companies.

Has that 1% logo made me the Tesla of communications? Nope. But has it greased the slide for conversations and relationships? Absolutely.

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Needless to say, I am a very proud 1% for the Planet member. From every angle it makes sense for my business. Even more so as I watch more and more environmental protections be rolled back.

We can’t do everything. But being a 1% member helps me to move my do-gooder and entrepreneurial self in tandem.

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If you are thinking about joining 1% for the Planet — here’s a link.

And while you’re at it, if you need help with conversion copy for your purpose-driven company check out my services page here.