How (Not) to Gaslight
Content Marketing

How (Not) to Gaslight

Gaslight, Gaslighted, Gaslit? 

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of dishonest chatter and brand-tanking marketing attacks, read on. We’ve got tips for combatting this toxic marketing tactic– it affects more of us than you think.

The timeless Ingrid Bergman wasn’t even immune.
(If you haven’t seen this 1944 film, you’re missing out.)

Lately, we’ve been focusing on just how important trust is for your business (ahem, check out How to Build Brand Trust here). We’ve talked about everything from what it looks like, its importance, and how to build it, but what do you do when it’s broken? What’s worse, what do you do when a competitor deals in dirty marketing and seeds distrust among your customers? This form of gaslighting is pervasive and destructive. So how do you recognize it? Fight back?


What Is It?

First, let’s clarify what gaslighting is.

Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. –Psychology Today

Exemplified in the black and white film, gaslighting is when someone uses denials, deflections, and straight up lies (hello, fake news) to make the victim question their sanity. There are many signs of gaslighting, but when did it come into the picture?



Patrick Hamilton first coined the term “gaslight” in his 1938 play…drumroll…Gas Light. That’s not to say that the behavior started then. On the contrary, this toxic treatment stretches back and can be seen in literary classics like Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper.

Even though it’s nothing new, these 20th-century pop culture portrayals have made it a household term– at least when it comes to interpersonal relationships, like between boss and employee. But what about when its spindly claws reach over into marketing?

What happens when gaslighting becomes a marketing tactic?


The Attack: They Gaslight Your Customers & Debunk Your Brand Trust

Imagine you’ve just launched a well-thought campaign to highlight your newest product, a bundle of your most popular services. Your competitor starts flooding your sector with self-published articles, studies, and paid guest posts calling your latest launch “flawed,” “dishonest,” and a “scam.”

The thing is, you’ve done the research, and you know that your bundled services are a long-term money saver for your clients. You also understand that you’re filling a gap in the market for convenient bundled quality services. But what do you do?

Thanks to their decision to gaslight you, your newest launch looks cheap, haphazard, and scammy.

Your impulse might be to fight back, to take on their charges one by one. Don’t.


Here’s What You Do

  1. Don’t Legitimize Your Competitor by Engaging Directly
  2. Fine Tune Your Story and Tell It 
  3. Stay Positive

Your competitor might think that “negative sells.” But you know that’s not who your brand is. Stick to your inbound marketing strategy, and keep things positive. Why? Because your customers are more likely to buy or subscribe if they feel positively about you. Why? Because positivity sells. One study examined the most shared articles online and linked them to the emotions they evoked in readers. 71% of the most-shared articles elicited positive emotions. 

So your mama’s advice to hold your head high, and let the naysayers nay-say was right. Create positive content that offers a different viewpoint of the concepts and keywords your competitor is sharing. Don’t address their arguments directly, but contextualize their points in your head-held-high content.

In other words, keep doing your thing. Trust your customers to take your viewpoint into account– win over your competition fair and square.

And then take a break to watch more black and white films because, why not?


If you need any help writing a positive story for your brand, reach out to the trusted Two Red Crows writers. We promise to make your brand voice heard (chunky-bangled Grandma or not). 

Why is our campaign called Going Somewhere, SEO? We’re glad you asked. The whole point of your blog is to land up on the first search engine results page shouting, Pick Me! Pick Me! Sadly, blogs without SEO are going nowhere, simply because Google won’t find them. Our articles are driven by SEO. Occasionally they ask, Are we going somewhere SEO? The answer is always, Yes. What about yours?

#contentmarketing #content #coffeetalk

Related Posts