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Avoiding Bad Practices. Part two: Ethics

Welcome to part two of a four-part series on avoiding bad practices in your quest for results

In the previous post, we discussed branding and shared some good and bad examples , whilst pointing out the benefits well-thought out branding can bring, and places where branding can be explored to better market your business.

This instalment is all about Ethics and ethical behaviour

Right, lets start by first defining what ethics are:

Ethics are beliefs and perceptions of correct behaviour. Our ethics, values and morals assist us in determining what is right and wrong. People across the world can have similar or different values and ethics depending on their social class, wealth, environment, upbringing, religion and experiences.

What part do ethics play in our lives?

We may not realise it, but ethics play a vital role in our decision making.

  • Should I charge more for a service because the client is difficult and there are issues with the job?
  • Should I use this copy written by another because it relates to what I am writing and is freely accessible?
  • Should I choose my friend over a person who is more qualified and experienced for a job I am recruiting for?

As you can see from the above examples, our choices are based on what we feel is correct and OK to do. And ethics can change given our situation. When the economy is flailing I may be more susceptible to unethical behaviour because my concerns are my primary needs (money, food. Shelter) and my choices are limited.

What ethics are involved in Marketing?

Marketing and sales are functions plagued by unethical personnel. Lying about a product or service to sell it, using offers which are not what they seem, appealing to the vulnerable or using guilt tactics.

Again, here are a few examples:

Bait and Switch:

  • Allowing a booking for a holiday online when the hotel itself has no rooms. Calling up the booker a week later to say there are no rooms and ‘moving’ them to a lower star or inferior hotel without discounting, or as a way to ensure a booking.
  • Advertising a job which has been filled and then discussing a different role.

Misleading offers

  • Advertising an offer for low priced goods. When a customer enquires, the offer has strict criteria or they failed to mention the additional prices for extras, or they persuade you to buy a higher priced good or service.


  • Decreasing the quantity (or time) without lowering cost.
  • Using packaging to ‘appear’ bigger.

Gift giving

  • Giving free gifts as a way of coercion to buy (not competitions)

Vulnerable targeting

  • Displaying TV adverts on goods and services for a small proportion of the population.
  • Using TV adverts or media advertisements of goods and services which lower income families cannot afford
  • Using sexual, explicit, rude or religious advertising

How can acknowledging ethics improve my business and gain results?

By understanding that each of us are different, we can explore ways of appealing which take into account these differences. This is especially important for businesses pursuing or trading in a global market. Here however, we also need to research local customs.

To just concentrate on our local market (Ireland and the United Kingdom), in what ways can we use ethical marketing to our advantage and why does ethical behaviour attract business?

  1. Ethical marketing will appeal to a wider audience
  2. You can avoid negative press and opinions
  3. Ethical marketing will lead to a more harmonious environment
  4. Visitors, clients, customers and guests appreciate ethical behaviour
  5. Ethical behaviour is positive for the company. And legal!
  6. You appear more professional and trustworthy
  7. It protects your reputation
  8. Others are more likely to recommend you
  9. You stand over out the ‘unethical’ competition
  10. Being ethical shows you care about more than money or business; you care about doing things right

What are your experiences of ethical and unethical behaviour?
Have you ever used unethical techniques in your business?
What do you do as a business to be ethical?

Watch out for part 3: on product position and the marketing mix!

Christina is a complete geek, hence a perfect web + online marketing consultant. After ten years working with Premier Recruitment Group, LA Fitness, Monarch Airlines, Thomson Travel and a host of other companies, she now owns CG Online Marketing ( in Ireland and is an associate of the Ahain Group. She's qualified in most things online such as web server management, digital design, Google Analytics and SEO. Specialties: Social Media Marketing, SEO / PPC,Google analytics (qualified in GA IQ) Web trends + insights, Data segmentation and targeting, Customer Behavior analysis, Digital design, Writing, Ethical marketing Green marketing / Sustainable tourism and Hotel + travel online marketing

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  • Nice one Tina. I’d add to that: “what goes around, comes around”. It’s always better to be a good boy 🙂

  • Great post Tina, really on the money! Your point about taking in account cultural differences is well made Check out Bloggertoner Cindy King’s As regards unethical behaviours, or in my case unethical selling, I’ve seen it happen and had pressure put on me to partake. In my experience, this was a top down pressure as in the direction came from management and was more insidious than a direct instruction. This, I’m sure happens a lot more than we think particularly where the salespeople are young/inexperieced and vulnerable to coercion.

  • It is best to be good. If you are doing thing above board then you have something less to worry about.

  • In truth Niall, a lot of people don’t realise that the methods they employ are unethical. Our society has evolved and adapted. Could you imagine the antics of Lady GaGa being around in the 1940s ? Noooo Gradually over time we have pushed the boundaries of what is correct and in the process but pressure on others to match or take it further.

    Greed is a big factor. Leading by examples of unethical behaviour working for others. We feel we can ‘get away’ with it and no’one will notice. I tell you someone who ALWAYS notices, and thats yourself!

  • Anonymous

    Nice post Christina, and it certainly highlights to me as a consumer some practices to watch out for. I’m sure I’ve fallen foul of some of these practices in the past. I recall that when we went on holiday to Croatia, that the hotel room we were given was in such bad condition that I wouldn’t let my dog stay in it. Our only option was to leave the hotel (and lose our deposit), or stump up the extra money for a higher grade of room. We ended up paying for the better room, but on reflection I should’ve called their bluff, and threatened to walk.

    Anyway we didn’t give them a favourable review on Tripadvisor, and since any friends or relatives who go to Croatia, we tell them to stay well clear of that hotel.

  • The list is endless Frank….these are the worst offenders and most popular tactics.

    Hotels do have procedures in place to guarantee a profit, it certainly in ‘false advertising’ if the description and images associated with the hotel that you saw prior to book depicted it in a fvourable light. A hotel concerned with quality and strong customer service would have found a way to ensure you ‘left’ with a positive opinion of, at the very least, the staff. Its greed again I’m afraid!

    Thanks for commenting. Should I avoid Croatia?

  • Anonymous

    No Croatia is beautiful. We based ourselves in Dubrovnik and had a fantastic holiday (experience mentioned above excluded)

  • Oonagh Donnelly

    Really good thinking, and also refreshing. Over many years I have been accustomed to hearing some folk in business discussing unethical practices to be “business like” or “clever and good for business”. In some cases unethical practices for gain in business is nearly something to brag about for the more so called “business savvy”. I have never vouched for it or had any interest in being part of it or supporting it. I always felt this abstinence of mine was almost a flaw. Now I’m happy to view it as a marketing orientated attribute!


  • Hi Oonagh,Being ethical is definately something to brag about! An upstanding company who respects their customers and considers their practice is seen as a rarity. Wear your ‘unethical abstinence’ ring with pride!It isn’t clever to wheedle money out of unsuspecting clients. Its clever to use your noggin in an imaginative and innovative way to market your goods and services. As a wise man once said ‘If what you have is good. That’s good enough.’Thanks for the words…

  • natalia

    what are the consequences of practicing bad business ethics

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