Ethics in marketing... Where do you draw the line?

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SARubin

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I was reading a thread on another forum, that touched upon a point of morality and ethics in marketing.

One of the members was called out for blatantly lying about his experience, in order to promote himself as being a master marketer.

That member shot back by telling everyone "The best marketers adjust the facts to make themselves look better, so get off your high horses and start living in the real world!"

He then went on to justify his claim, demanding that he could "honestly" say he helped generate tens of millions of dollars for past clients, because he once worked for a company that did so.

And even though he wasn't personally responsible for any of those transactions, he wasn’t lying. He was simple "adapting the truth" to fit his own needs.


Now, I don’t know how you feel about his justification; But to me, with that type of logic, a cashier at Walmart could say they’re a financial manager, at a multi billion dollar international company.

Is it a lie? Or, is it simply an adapted truth?

To me, it sounds deceptive… what do you think?


The thread on that forum has since been deleted by the moderators (which is just as well, because it eventually morphed into a self righteous battle of personal attacks, instead of a valuable discussion).

But, it did raise an interesting question...

When it comes to marketing and selling, Is there a moral "line in the sand" you will not cross?

Or, do you believe it’s OK to twist the facts (beyond recognition), and deceive your market without conscience, as long as you make a buck?


Personally, I have no problem with someone shouting their accomplishments, while whispering their shortcomings, in order to make their resume' look a little better.

Hey look, I get it… I’m a marketer, and I fully understand the need to emphasize the good points, and minimize the bad when selling something. (it’s what we do for a living)

But blatantly twisting the truth and deceiving people, is just plain unethical... And just plain wrong!

Anyway, that’s my thought on the subject.
If you think I'm just being naive here, then feel free to knock me off my high horse.

Until then, I guess I'll just ride off into the sunset. (clip clop, clip clop, clip clop)
 

djbaxter

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Excellent topic, SARubin! :)

I don't want to dominate all the discussions on the forum - I think I already do too much of that - so I'm going to hold back and let others post their opinions first.
 
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I'm with you on this SARubin. Twisting the truth for material gain isn't the way that I'd want to go. I believe in karma so anything done which isn't good is not going to end well. You may enjoy the "ill-gotten rewards" from what you did for a time but in the long run, it will all come crashing down on you. To be honest, I despise marketers that use flowery words just to boost themselves up. To me it all sounded like made up stuff and they're just in it for the money and not genuine in helping their customers.
 

mfawcett

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Yeah, things like that are immoral. I certainly wouldn't trust someone like that, or deal with them unless I had to.

I'm in the Digital Marketing industry myself. But I'm going to be honest about my company, and who we are. Potential clients will either go for it or they won't, but at the end of the day I'll be able to walk with my head high knowing I tried to do things the honest way.

I'd rather be stuck working McJobs for the rest of my life then blatantly lie and deceive people.
 
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The real challenge is being able to back up your claims/statements. Well, with the situation you shared SARubin, it was the marketer marketing himself that went out of hand. It's hard, especially if you can't really quantify your contributions to the success of your team.
In my case, I'm more concerned about the product/service I'm selling. For example, you tell your audience about a product's features, and you claim that it is better than other more well-known services. If your product can't back up your claims, you just end up ruining its reputation. That's where I think the line should be: you can exaggerate benefit statements, you can highlight useless features, you can mention "research" data--just make sure everything you say adds up, and that your product/service can really deliver what you've mentioned.
 

Leigh Steele

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Great discussion and questions SARubin!

I think that in the end, his reputation will speak for itself. He may not like what it has to say. After all, our reputation is the best (or worst) form of marketing. :)

I believe in integrity in words and actions. When we let integrity slip, it gives greater access to allow other things in our life to slip. And, when we don't maintain integrity in words and actions we begin to create a sort of "web of half-truths" that becomes complex and difficult to maintain.
 

SARubin

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I don't want to dominate all the discussions on the forum - I think I already do too much of that - so I'm going to hold back and let others post their opinions first.
Your insights and opinions are always appreciated, djbaxter. So don't hold back for too long :)

I believe in karma so anything done which isn't good is not going to end well. You may enjoy the "ill-gotten rewards" from what you did for a time but in the long run, it will all come crashing down on you.
Exactly, Jessica! People can get away with lying for a while, but eventually our reputations catch up with us. And once a reputation is destroyed, it can take a looooong time to rebuild it.

Potential clients will either go for it or they won't, but at the end of the day I'll be able to walk with my head high knowing I tried to do things the honest way.
I couldn't agree more, Mo. I might lose a potential client or two along the way (by not telling them what they want to hear). But at least I can sleep soundly at night, knowing I always try to do the right thing.

And the clients who respect integrity, tend to be better long term clients anyway.

The real challenge is being able to back up your claims/statements. Well, with the situation you shared SARubin, it was the marketer marketing himself that went out of hand.
My thoughts as well, Francis. If he had simply said he'd “worked for” a multi million dollar company, so he had insight into how things work, then it still would have sounded impressive to many people... And, it would've been true.

Some times the TRUTH, is the best LIE.

Now look at the situation with this as a view.
Huh ????

I believe in integrity in words and actions. When we let integrity slip, it gives greater access to allow other things in our life to slip. And, when we don't maintain integrity in words and actions we begin to create a sort of "web of half-truths" that becomes complex and difficult to maintain.
Agreed, Leigh! I've heard it said that the moral values we express in one aspect of our life, shows the values we carry in all aspects of our life.
 
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We have a local business idiom that roughly translates to "show your math before your market". It's not unethical to brag about what you can do if you can prove how you're making millions. Show people the math. If you can't show your work, then that's unethical marketing.
 
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