Is Manipulation Bad?

Famous manipulator Niccolo Machiavelli

Find out by answering two simple questions.

Almost fifty years ago, marketers created compelling campaigns for the tobacco industry that kept the nation smoking. Today, UX designers work on apps that influence our behavior and let us grasp our smartphones every hour. Is there a difference between the two?

Headspace app

For example, every day I receive a notification from my Headspace app. A positive message that reminds me to live in the present. Or a reminder to do a meditation exercise. Meditation is a habit that you need to train. Headspace app is helping me with that. After a quick and easy exercise, I am rewarded with a compliment. This way I slowly adjust my habits and become ‘addicted’ to meditation. When I finish my freemium exercises, I can continue my subscription, or pursue meditation without Andy’s compliments.

Am I doing a good job?

Apps are built as user-friendly as possible. Also, a lot of software is created with the intention of keeping you hooked. I noticed that UX designers and developers sometimes question the morality of the products they are working on, for instance in this article. Does the end justify the means?  The author mentions two simple questions that can test what kind of entrepreneur you are.


Answer these questions:

  1. Am I going to use this product myself?
  2. Is this product really going to enhance the life of the consumer in the long run?


Two times yes? You are a Facilitator

You are selling a product or service you would like to use yourself and thereby you are helping others. You are a conscious entrepreneur that wishes to solve real problems. You are convinced others will benefit from your solution.

First: no, second: yes? You are a Peddler

You think your product is going to enhance other people’s lives, but you don’t like to use it yourself. Consider this: are you really sure about the needs of your target audience? Explore their needs, so you are not fixing imaginary problems.

First: yes, second: no? You are an Entertainer

You definitely like to use your product, but the product is not going to enhance the life of the consumer in the long run. That’s okay. You are selling entertainment and this has its own function. However, think about this: how addictive should entertainment be? We want to keep our customers healthy, don’t we?

Two times no? You are a Dealer

You would not use your product and the product is damaging the consumer’s life in the long run? In that case, you are profiting from other people’s weakness, like a drug dealer or casino owner.

Do you agree these questions are also helpful for marketers?