This Week in Marketing Ethics

Ok, first off, I can hear you laughing at the title of this post. Not very nice! Don Draper aside, we marketing types do at times look into our souls and make an effort at doing the right thing. So this post is about what I’ve been hearing this week, and the upshot for ethics in marketing.

Three separate streams of information and conversation caught my attention: The first was about the term “e-mail blast,” the second regarding plagerism and CV puffing among “social media experts,” and the third a report about advertisers monitoring people's online activity, and the potential for regulation of the practice.

Dag Blast It!

My week in marketing ethics began with a super-brief Marketing Profs post on the term “e-mail blast.”   It’s a term that is in common use – a potential client just asked me recently if I had email blast experience – yet has many detractors. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of a blast. The Marketing Profs post ends with a quote from Justin Premick, who wrote this at the AWeber blog: 

Terms like "blast" are dangerous, not only because they make you sound like a spammer, but also because their repeated use can influence how you view your subscribers and campaigns. Words like "email blast" to describe campaigns suggest the sender doesn't see subscribers as people, but rather as targets to shoot offers at until they score a hit. [emphasis mine] 

Covered Wagon Medicine Show

Stealing intellectual property is nothing new on the internet. Conversation this week was not so much about stealing content as it was about plagiarism, just plugging in someone else’s information and claiming it as your own. The next step is selling your services ala Snake Oil Sales based on other people's work and some smoke and mirrors. Peter Kim and David Armano, both of Dachis Group wrote separately about their concerns. And there was an excellent post by Leigh Duncan-Durst titled "On Plagiarism, Snake Oil, and Prayer."

There is more to these and other posts than tantrums about lost income. It becomes a credibility issue when someone passes themselves off as a “Social Media Expert” while stealing content and screwing up with clients because they don’t know what they’re doing. (Note: I don’t tout myself as an “expert” in social media. Via Twitter and the blogosphere I am, like you, merely social media expert-adjacent. And as with all intellectual property, it is that adjacency, that easy access that is the conundrum-causer.) Kim and Duncan-Durst have a few good starting points to call out the "worst practitioners" and protecting your ideas without being a prima dona. 

Like Peter Tosh said, “Regulate it!”

Actually Peter Tosh said “legalize it” and was of course referring to something else entirely. Audio business magazine Marketplace (from American Public Media) ran a brief story on research out of University of Pennsylvania and UC Berkley suggesting that few people want their web browsing habits monitored, except (for some) if it leads to offers of discounts on products and services they have a demonstrated interest in using. The question becomes should there be greater attempts to regulate (not just self-govern) those who would track our buying habits and interests? 

These streams lead toward what I think is the heart of the matter: Are you, as a marketing professional--or really in any aspect of business or life--really interested in adding something of worth to the lives of people your work is serving? Does every decision we make in each moment of the day serve that purpose? Probably not, but heading toward that goal, that's the point. Doing something more nuanced than "blasting" the people receiving your next e-mail missive is a start. Kicking butt and taking names when you find a faux social media expert dispensing half-digested advice. Go to it! And regulation of what happens online is a HUGE question. Self-governance is a laudable goal, but worst practitioners will always be out there. Somebody needs to monitor those who are monitoring our online activity.

See, and that's just one week's worth of marketing ethics! Shine up the Pope-mobile because us marketing types are soon gonna need it!

 

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