What is trauma informed marketing?

Doctor Digital, I heard someone talking about trauma-informed marketing the other day, what does it mean and does my business need it?

Doctor Digital Says


More and more these days, the phrase trauma-informed is moving out of medical and allied-health and into more mainstream places - like digital marketing and copywriting. Trauma-informed is defined as an approach that in all parts of business or wherever it is applied, there is a recognition that trauma exists, that it impacts many people.

A trauma-informed approach aims through the practices of a business to create safety from harm and re-traumatisation, emphasise strength building and skill acquisition rather than symptom management, and foster true collaboration at all service levels. While this approach can be applied at the macro level, it can also be applied to elements of how business is conducted, which is where trauma-informed digital marketing and copy come in.

Most copy has the aim of being part of a user journey to a sale, either by building your brand, creating awareness, identifying a need, creating a want, educating and hopefully ending in a conversion before the cycle starts again. (If you want to learn more about this you can check out our Marketing Funnels Factsheet.)

The language of marketing is designed to induce a need and then convince us that we absolutely have to buy the product or service. This is an unashamedly manipulative process, and billions of dollars go into understanding humans and their buying patterns to create marketing and content that triggers a buying need.

As research about trauma is more widely understood and applied, it is recognised that most of this marketing works from a place of deficit rather than strength - we are literally telling our clients that they are not enough without our product or service, and creating conditions of fear, shame and worthlessness as a selling mechanism. Current stats from Beyond Blue show one in seven Australians will experience a mental health issue, and 50% will experience trauma, which is a lot of customers we could be caring for with how we craft our marketing messages and use our digital platforms.

Examples of deficit-based marketing are any language or digital assets that create scarcity - you know the countdowns of how many products are left, or the tickers showing you how many other people have purchased the product, the pop-up messages that encourage you to buy now or you'll miss out, or the more blatant campaigns that come at you suggesting that you are not decisive enough to take this opportunity that other people have. Anything that is marketed to make you thinner, fitter, smarter, a better parent, less bald, more attractive, it all comes from a base of making you feel how you are right now isn't good enough.

So what is strength-based marketing and how do you bring a trauma-informed lens to your strategy? Of course the first step is understanding your demographic so you know who you are talking to and educating yourself about their needs and wants and how your product or service is going to assist them in their lives. It's also about considering how your digital communications makes them feel, so empathy is a key tool.

Start with the basics of your digital suite - is your website 2.0 accessible and friendly, is the content designed to be accessible to all levels of literacy, do you have the right alt-text on your images for people who need a screen reader? Are your colours and fonts friendly to everyone and not set up to cause distress to neurodiverse brains. If you need help with any of this you can check out our guide.

Next, think about your copy and content and your social media feeds, how do they land with your consumers? Are you inclusive in representing a spectrum of people, not just a binary and mainstream view of the world? Who might be held out of the conversation, offended, othered or ignored? Are you unconsciously using language that is racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, homophobic, or transphobic? These are all points to consider from the perspective of the people interacting with your content. Happily, this is the deep work of really knowing your demographic and how you speak to them and meet them where they are at, so taking time to think about who is receiving your content is a great way of putting yourself on the user journey with them.

Finally in terms of writing content, have a look at how you craft your marketing and sales messages. Are you seeking conversion through creating lack, or a sense of not-enoughness, stressful time urgency, or the promise of something that is, realistically, unachievable? Do you use techniques like sending emails that push people to buy with language that gives them rampant FOMO?

All of these techniques work, as mentioned before, our negatively biased nervous systems thrive on panic and fear as motivators, but is that how you want to close a deal? Have a close look at your marketing narratives, especially the language you use, and how you take your customers on their user journey. Can you use language that promotes feelings of safety, inclusion, evidence-based reasons your product or service works, can you remove more barriers to purchase with transparent copy and content, and build trust using compassion and empathy?

As we continue to weather the stressful storms of COVID, war, election cycles, and the general stress of life and business, creating trauma-informed digital marketing, copy, content, and kind social feeds are good for your customers, good for society and community more broadly, bringing the collective anxiety and stress down and notch and really creating an environment for people AND your business to flourish.


Share this page