Shaming users is a horrible idea!

How in the world has shaming users become a marketing trend? Who thinks you can get a positive behavior by insulting users?

A recent article by Katie Meyer and Kim Flaherty on the blog brought light to this horrible practice. The article identifies the text links that shame users for not taking an action as manipulinks and the practice of making people feel bad for opting out as confirmshaming/declineshaming. Typically these tactics are used within modal windows for newsletter subscriptions. The offer will be in large font along with a sign-up box and a large CTA. At the bottom is the manipulink which puts down the user for not going for the deal. As I read the article on, it reminded me of an experience I had with Hipcamp, a website to help you find campsites, and how they were user-shaming for their newsletter signup just a few months ago. is a place I go to daydream about camping in beautiful locations. I will admit that I have never gone camping but I love looking at the beautiful photos on their website, that's besides the point. During one such visit to their site, I noticed a modal window with the offer to sign up for their newsletter. As I looked around to see how I could close the window I saw the manipulink they were using  which read, “No, I don’t enjoy the outdoors.” Hmm…, I thought to myself. I love running outdoors.  Who is Hipcamp to tell me that I don’t enjoy the outdoors? I was pissed. As any sane person would do, I sent them a tweet stating that I, in fact, loved the outdoors and that their use of words was in very bad taste.

No, thanks. I'm not a fan of the outdoors. Really?

No, thanks. I'm not a fan of the outdoors. Really?

A moment of truth

Moments like these are when brands can turn a negative experience for a potential customer into a brand loyalist. A few hours later Mary from Hipcamp addressed the issue with the tweet below:

Way to diffuse the situation! This was a good first step on Hipcamp’s part to fixing a bad experience. The pessimist in me was still a bit hesitant that anything would actually change. Then a week later I checked to see if how things were going with the modal window and they actually changed the text of the decline confirmation link from, “No, I don’t enjoy the outdoors” to a simple “No thanks”. I couldn’t believe it. I let them know how cool that was:

Hipcamp has redeemed themselves by fixing the text of a link. They took a bad experience and turned it into an opportunity to gain brand loyalty and I thank them for this. Hopefully they have learned their lesson and will be extremely careful next not to shame their users into taking action.

Where to go from here?

The recent trend of manipulinks and confirmshaming/declineshaming is a horrible practice. We should call the brands out whenever we experience it on their sites. Shaming users into taking action will never be a good idea so let’s put the pressure on the brands to stop practicing this dark pattern. Shaming the brands who shame users can be an effective technique to stop this bad trend from spreading. How will brands respond?

Let's put the pressure on the companies to keep them accountable so we can end this horrible trend once and for all.