I’ll bet you’ve seen pics of sleazy internet marketers posing with Lamborghinis before. You know what I mean, right?

Super dodgy… and yet, still effective as a marketing tool.

Why? It’s effective because it’s aspirational, and we all aspire to something.

I’ll give you another example.

If you’ve watched the Netflix series ‘Baby Reindeer’ you’ll have seen aspiration in action. One of the characters types out the message “Sent from my iPhone” at the end of every email she sends – even though she isn’t using an iPhone. Why does she do that? Because she wants to be seen as an iPhone user – that’s aspirational to her.

The “Sent from my iPhone” message is actually a brilliant bit of marketing.

At face value, it’s just a little message that can be changed or removed quite easily. Yet iPhone users seem strangely reluctant to change it. Probably because they like what that small phrase says about them. It says, “I’m an iPhone owner”. They keep the message because it’s boastful, but in a socially acceptable way.

Now just to be clear, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t use aspiration in marketing, we all need something to aspire to – that’s just human.

I’m saying that we need to use it ethically.

Remember the sleazy internet marketer I mentioned before? The guy posing with the Lamborghini and probably also a pretty girl on his arm. The reason why this works so well for him is because that’s exactly what his target audience wants for themselves.

Problem is that the Lamborghini is a rental, and the pretty girl is his cousin’s model friend. He’s selling a lie.

We all want to look good, especially online and it can be tempting to overdo the aspiration and tiptoe over the line of ethics.

Is having a professional photoshoot in a gorgeous Airbnb (and implying that it’s your home) aspirational or unethical? 

Is telling your origin story and making it sound just that little bit worse than it actually was aspirational or unethical? I mean everyone loves a good underdog success story, so there’s no harm in it, right. Right?

Is it possible that some of your marketing material has tiptoed over that line?

So, how can you use aspiration in your business in an ethical way?

You can do this by inspiring and motivating your audience, while maintaining honesty, transparency, and respect.

Here are 4 strategies to help you achieve this:

Keep your messaging honest

This means no unrealistic promises or exaggerated claims about your products or services. Be open about the benefits and limitations of your products or services.

Tell real stories

Share real, non-exaggerated stories of your own success and use testimonials and case studies that accurately reflect typical customer experiences – not just the fabulous outliers.

Ethical inclusivity

Try make your marketing messaging as inclusive as possible and feature a diverse range of people. But and this is a big but, only do this if you have made a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion and not just for the sake of appearances.

Understand your audience

Now I don’t know about you, but I have no interest in owning a Lambo, so that’s not aspirational to me, but there are other things I aspire to be, do, or have. So, aspiration is subjective and must match the aspirations of your target audience to be effective.

So, as with all marketing, aspirational marketing requires a deep understanding of your target audience and their needs for it to work.

We all aspire to be richer, more beautiful, or more popular, so, aspiration is a very powerful tool to use in your marketing. Just give the Lambo poses a skip and keep it honest.