Posted tagged ‘ethics’

Marketing in a sceptical world


Spieler – a Market Trader who tries to convince a customer in all manner of ways that a product is worth buying

Extract from the Market Traders Phrase Book

Every Sunday in Liverpool, Stanley Market is thronged with traders and punters and has the most amazing array of goods.  What always fascinates me is that even in 2010 some traders are still pedalling magic ‘shammy’ (chamois) leathers or miracle mops or conducting meat auctions.   “For you, not £20, not £15 but £5 and I will throw in half a dozen sausages!”

You would think in this modern era that such selling would have had its day.  Surely selling has become far more sophisticated and such methods are transparent and as dubious as the world of scams with e-mails from Africa bestowing riches upon us in exchange for our bank details, financial consultants selling duff policies and numerous people willing to take our money and run.  You would hope that the regulators of marketing, advertising and PR would protect us from anything approaching the definition of a scam. However, even the most experienced marketing person can be subjected to some very interesting selling techniques that raises questions about my profession – marketing.

Business owners across the land have been puzzled by a direct mailing consisting of a torn newspaper page with a handwritten Post-it note, which says “Hi, I saw this and thought you’d find it useful – he’s really good! J”. The page arrives in a plain white envelope, which appears to be addressed by hand, with a second-class stamp attached.

It’s a compelling communication and makes a ‘free’ offer that is too good to miss.  Except, like anything, one starts very quickly to suspect there is something not quite right.  This particular mailing comes from marketing expert Chris Cardell and is certainly causing a stir as it has raised fundamental questions about his methods and has somewhat backfired upon him.

The mailing has landed him with a referral to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and their adjudication makes sober reading –

For me, the Cardell approach is worth looking at.  Many of his materials, thoughts and techniques are fascinating although his brash and somewhat arrogant approach is not to my liking (If you want to see him in action selling to you from a luxurious location then enjoy this –  The problem is where to ‘draw a line’ in communications and to determine at what point Cardell’s methods push  beyond the boundaries.

Of course, read the direct mailing cutting and one begins to fast see through the gushing copy.  The handwritten post it note is clearly misleading as actually there is no person that knows you called J who may have sent this mailing and the whole presentation from the stamp, postmark and hand writing is all aimed to provoke certain actions without telling you this is actually just a marketing device.

For me, Cardell has stepped outside the rules and the ASA adjudication establishes this.  It has also given him an interesting challenge as he is a disciple of Google and evangelises their tools, except now his name in their search engine returns with the word ‘scam’ which is hardly great for a guru of advanced internet marketing.  It will be interesting to see how he responds .

Bodyproject feels distinctly uneasy about the reputation the likes of Cardell bestows on our industry; but at the same time he has something to offer that is unique and ultimately compelling.  There is also a perversity in me writing this as I have subscribed to his free offer and thus offered my e-mail address to his clutches, but in mitigation I have done so for professional research reasons as I am sure you will understand!!!!

What not to say!


“…Never promote yourself at Another’s expense…”

Line from a humanist code of ethics by Arthur Dobrin

Communicators are often faced with ethical dilemmas. Indeed there are many who trade in promoting products and services and pedalling messages that are dubious in the least. Of course the judgement is often down to personal values and probably influenced by multiple considerations.

I was confronted by such an ethical dilemma this week. A man seeking advice through a network I subscribe to requested advice related to key messaging.

In his home country of Kenya it is commonplace for voters to be paid to vote for one of the parties. He wanted to run a key message that encouraged people to take the money but to vote for the opposite party.

For my part, I declined to offer advice actually saying that I felt that no professional communicator could participate in such an exercise and that free democracy could not be exercised by righting a wrong with a wrong.
Interestingly his question on a discussion forum has drawn very little response when normally the forums are very healthy full of contributions and debate. This leads me to think that communicators are constantly struggling with their personal ethics in relation to the messages they deliver.

The recent public flagellation in British politics has shown that corruption is a many-headed beast but I cannot and will not overstep a line – and that line is my personal values. These are values that I am privileged, as a company owner, to be able to deliver as an individual and as a business. I also think it is imperative that all communicators operate to highest ethical and moral standards.

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