A Call for Reformation of Marketing Ethics

Just like an accounting department, Marketing is essential to any business. However, marketing is universally mistrusted, synonymous to manipulation. Weight loss products are notoriously distrusted because they offer results that are often “too good to be true”. Diet pills may offer some chemical assistance but pointless if not matched with a proper diet and exercise routine. So it seems like it’s time for marketers to ask themselves “should we?” rather than “could we?”

Companies without ethical marketing are no more than con-artists selling you snake oil. Marketing is the public image of a company. It sets expectations for the customers, and when expectations are not met nor exceeded, trust is lost. Marketing is what keeps the relationship between company and customers intact. It’s our job as marketers to nurture that relationship. No one should tell just even a little white lie for their own sake, because in the words of the great Jon Snow, “When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything”

Will the Audience Ever Listen to Marketers Again?

So how do marketers rebuild trust? Should they focus on the brand’s purpose? Be completely transparent with their customers to the point of live streaming board meetings? Should certain industries or companies not be allowed to advertise via certain mediums?

The answer is simple really, but easier said than done of course. Marketers should just imagine they’re telling a story; and a I mean a fairy-tale, not a sale pitch disguised as a personal anecdote. By thinking like a story teller you can begin to think about how to describe your product or service to people. Getting poetic but not cheesy, sharing emotions and not simply trying to get a reaction. Subaru tells a story that everyone shares, a simple road trip with family or friends, no drifting through corners and enough smoke coming off the tire to make any coal plant jealous.

Story telling is meant to explain real life situations, in a easily imaginable way that allowed children to experience the event without actually having to go through it. This meant that the story had to have enough detail to engage, but vague enough so that they could recognize the situation if it were to come up in the future “this is just like in that story my mom use to read me”.

With this in mind, once you can explain a concept simply enough that even a child can full comprehend it, you will have mastered that concept. And like most writers or story tellers might tell you, the editing is not done when you have nothing left to add, but when you have nothing left to take away.

How do you Practice Story Telling?

Focus on the audience. Talking to them over and over until you’ve had the same conversation at least 100 times and then you will have chiseled away the excess stone around the statue. Once a company finds the the perfect channels, the right frequency, and molded fantasy with reality seamlessly, you have a trustworthy brand.

This can only be done through trying different language and mediums, and being more thankful for the failures that give you the most experience to learn from. Study the data, read the audience’s reaction, gauge how to adjust the story. Figure out which stages are not working and get negative reaction and simply adjust or get out before they throw rotten tomatoes.

And when considering if a message or marketing campaign is ethical, marketers should remember that it’s called targeting; and like in archery, we’re aiming for the bulls-eye, not the edge.

In my next blog posts I will be expanding upon how storytelling is the answer to building trust with a brand. I’ll more specifically look into how PII should be used by companies and how it can be interpreted for the purpose of updating stories as companies grow. I hope you all enjoyed the post, and I look forward to reading your comments and discussing this topic in detail!

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