You may have heard me or others who are challenging the status quo of manipulative sales and marketing techniques use the term “bro-marketer” before. 

Because of the circles I run in, the term bro-marketer feels like a pretty run-of-the-mill phrase that doesn’t need much of an explanation. But every now and then, I get a response like this:

These comments don’t get to me. Trolls are an unavoidable part of being visible on the internet. But this one did get me thinking, because the idea that calling out bro-marketing means being anti-men misses the mark on so many levels. 

I think it comes down to not understanding what bro-marketing actually means or where the term comes from.

And then I thought, maybe YOU aren’t sure what the term means or where it comes from either. So let me explain:

What is bro-marketing? 

Bro-marketer refers to any online business owner, regardless of gender, who uses manipulative marketing tactics and weaponizes their influence and relatability to make sales at any cost. They put profits over people and intentionally manipulate sales psychology to shut down critical thinking and influence people who won’t actually benefit from their offers into buying.

AKA, probably the exact opposite of how you want to show up and sell in your business.

Why the “bro” in bro-marketing?

The term bro-marketer references those in the early days of online business who created a “bro” persona with their personal brands to make themselves seem relatable and sell programs making “get rich quick” claims that very seldom delivered the promised results. 

Were there others using similar tactics that didn’t use a “bro” persona in their marketing? Sure.

Were there women who used and benefited from this style of marketing to build their empires in the early days of online business? Yeah, there were some. 

But this style of marketing is patriarchal in its nature, (which, by the way, is also not at all the same as “anti-men”, but that’s a conversation for another day). That means privileged white men (who patriarchy was designed to benefit) were the ones who made the most money and were most visible using this style of marketing. 

Women absolutely can and do use bro-marketing tactics, but that’s not who the system was designed for. Which means there are fewer high-profile examples of women succeeding with these tactics. 

Why are we talking about bro-marketers now?

As the online business world has grown, we’ve gotten more sophisticated as consumers in this industry. That means we’re less likely to fall for blatant bro-marketing these days. 

The guy throwing around $100 dollar bills on his yacht and promising you can have his lifestyle too if you just buy his several thousand dollar program? That actually used to be an effective (manipulative and gross, but effective) marketing strategy. Nowadays, most of us would be on high alert and running in the opposite direction if someone tried to sell to us in that way. 

And the bro-marketers know that. They’re sleazy, but they’re not stupid. They’ve watered down their tactics more and more over the years because, remember, one of the underlying goals of bro-marketing is to weaponize relatability to shut down critical thinking and get us to buy their stuff. 

As our industry evolves and grows, bro-marketing evolves with it, to a point where it seems like it’s just the norm if you want to make money online. Then it trickles down to people like you and me who genuinely care about our customers and want to make a positive impact through our businesses. And we also have bills to pay, and we need to make sales, and when you’re new to this industry, the natural thing to do is look to what others are doing for inspiration and guidance. 

That’s exactly how watered-down versions of bro-marketing have become rampant in the online business and coaching space. All of us likely use or have used some degree of bro-marketing in our businesses, because it’s what’s been taught as the norm for years. 

Calling out bro-marketing isn’t about shaming anyone. It’s about learning how to recognize manipulative marketing tactics so we can avoid falling victim to them, AND identify where we’re using these tactics ourselves, so we can change them. 

None of us are doing this perfectly.

I’m not doing this perfectly. But the more I talk about it, the more I realize that there is a small but growing community of us who are challenging and trying to change the way we approach marketing and sales as online business owners.

I hope this has helped to clear up what bro-marketing is and where it comes from.

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