Ethical marketing – taking the bro out of your business

Lily Karenza

LK Copywriting

What is bro marketing?

Bro marketing is nothing new – think American Mad Men-style advertising in the ’50s – but it’s a hot topic at the moment. More and more marketers and business owners are speaking up and refusing to use bro tactics.

Maybe it’s time we all said we’ve had enough?

OK, what even is bro marketing?

Michelle Mazur defines it as: the use of persuasive tactics that shut down people’s critical thinking ability when they’re making a purchasing decision. I just call it dirty marketing.

There’s a definite look to bro marketing, but if you’re visualising a straight white man in his early 30s standing next to a (probably rented) Lamborghini and wearing a watch that cost more than most people’s houses – you’re only seeing half the picture. There are PLENTY of businesses that don’t fit that image, yet still use dirty tactics to sell.


  • false scarcity
  • FOMO
  • grand promises with nothing to back them up
  • exploiting fear and insecurity to push a sale

Do they work? Absolutely! If not, they wouldn’t have lasted all this time.

But are they ethical? Necessary?

No and nope!

But so often we hear from marketing gurus pushing expensive courses as a way to “achieve your 6-figure dreams” (before you’ve even considered whether that actually IS your dream) that these tactics are the only way to achieve success.

Which is how bro marketing ends up trickling down to small business owners.

Even if your business coach or head of marketing isn’t one of those gurus – who did they learn from? Who did their teacher or coach learn from?

There’s a definite pyramid-shaped information cascade here, with a few big names at the top and everyone else lower down, reusing and rehashing the same old approach.

How ethical is your marketing?

Are you using tactics that fully align with your ethics?

If you take an honest look at your marketing and messaging, how do you feel?

I want to be clear here: there’s no shame in making mistakes or doing things that don’t match up with how you really want to do business. It’s about taking stock, being honest with yourself first, then figuring out how to do things differently.

Maybe you’re reading this and feeling awesome because you’d never use bro marketing tactics.

Maybe that’s true, but I encourage you to take another look. Scrutinise those things you do because “that’s how it’s done”.

Or maybe you’re reading and feeling some discomfort?

If that’s you, well done! Honestly! Because that discomfort means you’re aware of the problem, you know it’s not right and now you can do something about it 🥳

The alternative to bro marketing

There is absolutely an alternative to unethical marketing.


Is your product or service for everyone?

Can it help every single person and solve all of their problems?

If not, don’t try to pretend it does. (And if it does, you’re probably not charging enough…)

Be radically honest in your promises (and actually back them up – without proof, a promise is just a fairytale).

Don’t use false scarcity.

Letting people know that there are only 2 items left or that booking closes in 24 hours? Totally fine – as long as it’s true!

Pressurising people to buy with a countdown timer ending in 2 hours – when you know you’re just going to restart the thing again?


You can absolutely make sales and be successful with a policy of radical honesty. 

Does it take guts, when no-one else seems to be doing it?


But doing business in line with your values is an opportunity to lead with integrity, to define yourself by your principles.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this. Leave me a comment…

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