Marketing November 3, 2010 Last updated November 8th, 2010 2,733 Reads share

Avoiding Bad Practices. Part two: Ethics

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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 Giliberti

Christina Giliberti

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