By Mylena Vazquez
It’s no secret that broken trust is hard to mend. From friendships to romantic relationships to work arrangements, once there is a breach of trust it’s hard to bounce back. Marketing is no different. Our profession is one in which trust plays a huge, if quiet, role.
Marketers get a bad rap. They are often unfairly characterized as manipulative, deceitful, and cunning. But the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. Marketers are persuaders. They don’t want to trick you—they want to win you over. Their goal is to establish a relationship with the customer that is mutually beneficial, one in which they help the company by helping the customer.
To that end, marketers abide by a strong code of ethics. This is a formal position put forth by the American Marketing Association, in the Statement of Ethics section of the Code of Conduct. Under the Ethical Norms, the AMA states that marketers shall “do no harm,” “embrace ethical values,” and, importantly, “foster trust in the marketing system.” Our profession depends on the foundation of trust implied in our relationship with the customer.
But what, you may ask, constitutes violations of this code of ethics? Many things, both obvious and subtle. Violations can arise when, for example, companies fail to respect the privacy of their customers’ data—this is why many companies now have statements that explicitly assure the customer that they won’t sell their data to third parties, for example. Another type of violation can be more subtle—for instance, marketing a product to customers who normally wouldn’t want it by manipulating the marketing message to fit what the customer actually wants.
Instead, commit to operating on an ethical plane and ensuring that you are never infringing on a customer’s right to truth and agency. By doing so, you are sure to foster strong relationships and gain not just loyal customers, but brand advocates. Always remember: a win for them is a win for you.
Think back to a time that an unethical marketing tactic broke your trust in a company. What could that company have done instead?