Marketing and Ethics

This blog will focus on the convergence of two seemingly opposed topics: marketing and ethics. Although you would think watching any of the sexy and wild and/or simply crazy advertising on TV and print nowadays one could easily assume that there ARE no ethics in marketing. That the idea of playing fair, saying the truth, and being honest with customers in marketing and advertising are from a time long gone by. Well, let me tell you that marketing and ethics should go hand in hand. You can lie to some of the people some of the time but you can never lie to all of the people all of the time. If you’re using “iffY’ or “shady gray” marketing tactics to advertise your restaurant or other business, please take my advice and stop now. Believe me when I tell you that such shady practices will soon catch up with you, and you will lose both your business and your reputation in short time. It need not be so, since the best marketing still can be both truthful and straightforward.

My personal take on marketing ethics is threefold. Firstly, there are products that no amount of ethical marketing would convince me to buy. In my opinion, these products are unethical by nature. Thus, no amount of persuasion would ever convince me to buy these products or services. Tobacco products, strip clubs, and casinos spend millions in marketing every year. I would argue that it is unethical to promote these things no matter what methods are used. I am not sure where you stand one some of these issues, but for example I would never buy stock in a tobacco company because my mother was a smoker for 30 years until she finally quit 3 years ago, and my uncle died of smoking when he got lung cancer. So don’t advertise, participate in, or buy products that kill people.

Secondly, marketing can be used to promote healthy products and services, but the methods to do so may be unethical. For example, a product that may help reduce heart attacks can be marketed as a cure for heart disease. An item that does not help ease sexual dysfunction in men may be marketed as such. The point is, in our society and culture we have millions of services and products being marketed as giving benefits above and beyond the actual truth. Even if we support and buy or sell products we must do so ethically and truthfully. No need to exaggerate when your ads can look amazing and also be truthful.

The third and most unethical method marketers’ use is the classic “bait and switch”. Online web sites promise entertainment centers for free, but only after purchasing thousands of dollars of merchandise by partners of those web sites. The painful truth is written in fine print. Credit card companies promise low rates and reward points, and after a few months skyrocket their rates. Don’t use cheap bait- and switch tactics some restaurants use like advertising a happy hour and cutting it off short, advertising coupons and not honoring people that bring them in, or saying your food is organic when it is most certainly not verified organic and you just got it form the local farmer’s market. These shady practices WILL catch up with you in this 24/7, 100% transparent, always online and ready to spread the bullshit newsreel we now live in.

I believe honesty is the best policy. I would rather be honest and lose a few customers than lie in my marketing campaign and have to deal with upset customers. In the long term, these customers will be loyal to us for life because they will realize we have true integrity and honesty, something truly rare in today’s marketplace. Don’t be afraid to tell people the truth. “No we don’t have organic chicken because it’s too expensive; do you really want to pay $2-3 more for each chicken?” “No we don’t use biodegradable cups or plates because its triple the cost; when the cost comes down we would love to use it!” You get the picture.

Also, if you place strict ethical rules on yourself, you will find that you will come up with better and more accurate marketing ads.

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