Inception Marketing – The Most Common Way of Being a Douchebag Marketer

Okay, I’m sure you’ve seen the movie Inception – the one where the main characters fall asleep and then travel between various states of dreaming. Having dreams within other dreams and so on (how’s that for a crappy plot summary?).

The thing they were trying to do was to implant an idea into the main target’s mind. And this goal required them to go into a dream within a dream, within one more dream. Confusing, to say the least, but still a great movie.

Surprisingly, in real world, this is kind of what some marketers do with their offerings.

Instead of starting with a definition, let me just give you an example of what I mean. Actually, a prime example in inception marketing:

“Making money by teaching others how you make money.”

And I don’t mean some legitimate advice that covers various aspects of business and can be applied to a number of different markets. I mean self-replicating inception bullshit that’s only applicable to one specific scenario.

For instance, when someone is selling a make money online educational product that’s delivered as an e-book, and then inside the e-book they teach the exact same thing they just did (launch an e-book and teach others how to make money) then sorry, but the is just the ultimate douchebag marketer business model.

Inception marketing is a name I came up with a minute ago, but I think the practice is more commonly known as product-less marketing – a situation where your marketing itself becomes the product. Like my “make money” example.

Why this is bad

First of all, it creates no credibility at all and only makes the marketer look like a jackass. Just because someone can make money by teaching others how to make money doesn’t make them the expert … and here’s why.

The biggest problem with such products is that they don’t give you useful advice regarding some cool marketing approach. They just describe one single scenario – selling your marketing as the product. But what if you’re selling designer handbags, for example, how will you be able to apply the advice to that? You won’t be! That’s why inception marketing products are shit.

Even though there are many successful people still doing it (hey, money is a hell of a motivator, right?) the practice can never be a reliable business model that can provide income for years to come.

In a nutshell, it’s just like a modern day online Amway, so to speak. In case you don’t know, Amway is a direct-selling MLM company. Their main business model involves convincing people that they can become marketing partners/representatives, join the structure and start making money themselves. That they can even find new people to join the team (the multi-level structure) and make money off what those people bring.

That’s the theory… In practice, the only entity making money is Amway itself. That’s because usually no one is able to sell anything and the representatives just end up buying stuff themselves and keeping it, instead of reselling it.

In essence, this is just like inception marketing…

Basically, when someone creates a product on how to make money selling stuff on how to make money, and actually hopes to make money purely because of selling that product then something is not right.

(I know that the sentence above sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually how things get done in inception marketing.)

How not to end up doing inception marketing

This is the big question … because, as it turns out, not everyone doing inception marketing realizes it.

Actually, you could even accuse me of doing it … after all, I have a blog on how to start and run an online business, and the blog is kind of a business itself…

Well, not exactly.

The rule of thumb, and the thing I’ve mentioned once in this post already is “making your marketing the product.”

Therefore, until your marketing becomes the product, you don’t have to worry about becoming an inception marketer.

But be wary. The first time you send an email to your subscribers, titled “Bad News” and then you go on explaining how “Bad News” is the best email subject ever, you’ve become an inception marketer.

Also, just look around you, there are so many inception marketers out there that it’s more than surprising.

  • People selling products on Clickbank about how to make money selling products on Clickbank.
  • People conducting webinars only to sell a product on how to make money by conducting webinars.
  • People telling you a (fake) story about their life struggles only to sell you a product teaching how to make money by creating an emotional connection with your audience and then monetizing it.
  • Any more examples? Feel free to share yours.

The goal

Why am I even writing this post?

To warn you against buying any of such products. Even despite the fact that some of them sound very attractive. I mean, who wouldn’t want to learn how to make money by doing _________. However, the marketing promise doesn’t always deliver.

Most of the people tricked into buying inception marketing products don’t realize this right away. It usually happens once they’ve consumed half of the product or so, and at that point they feel embarrassed to ask for a refund or call the marketer out on their bullshit.

I published a post about a similar idea a couple of weeks ago, titled: The Olympics Rule to Recognize a Scam. I encourage you to check it out for more in-depth advice on how to recognize a scam when you encounter one.

In the meantime, I hope this post will make you more cautious when shopping for the next big thing on the internet.


  1. Matthew Denos

    Matthew Denos

    Karol, you are right on! Making money by teaching others who to make money is utter nonsense! It is the reason I left the half a dozen Multilevel Marketing schemes I tried over the past 7 years. It is the same reason I do not buy into all these products that supposedly teach you “how to make money” by selling you a product that is the only income stream of the so-called money guru behind it.

    • Exactly. This is the whole problem with the market.

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