Marketing Ethics SMPS Marketer Oct 2009
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Marketing Ethics SMPS Marketer Oct 2009

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    Marketing Ethics SMPS Marketer Oct 2009 Marketing Ethics SMPS Marketer Oct 2009 Document Transcript

    • 18 ReseaRch: MarkeTiNg eTHiCs—THe TruTH, THe WHOle TruTH, aNd NOTHiNg BuT THe TruTH…Or NOT BY TAREE BOLLINGER, CPSM, AND PAMELA HEEKE, CPSM Caught up in the competitive selection process, it’s tempting to want to stretch the truth in order to present a firm in the best light. But be careful of the shadows that light might cast. Deceit will be found out; when it is, the damage is usually impossible to repair. Marketers tend to downplay the possibility that the “spin” woven into proposals will be discovered for what it really is...a lie. But during our research on marketing ethics for the SMPS Foundation’s 2009 White Paper Project, the authors found there is a hidden danger in stretching the truth. Brian Dyer, who was a marketer with Arthur Anderson at the time of its collapse, explains by sharing a story his office managing partner told all new employees: “A business relationship is like a piece of paper. If you crumple the paper into a ball, it destroys your ability to write on it. If you unfold it, you can write on it again, but there will always be the markings and lines from the crumpling.” Once an individual is caught lying, an element of distrust and suspicion is introduced into the relationship. Or as Friedrich Nietzsche so eloquently quipped: “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that I can no longer believe you.” society for Marketing Professional services
    • WHy dO MarkeTers sTreTCH THe TruTH? telling white lies is an art form and perfectly acceptable in the industry as long as no one gets hurt or “finds out.” 19 Ford Harding, author of Creating Rainmakers, writes that some marketers become addicted to finessing because they derive Seth Godin, who ascribes to the belief that a fib is okay and a fraud pleasure from the fact that they are getting away with it. Finessing? is not, wrote a book on the subject: All Marketers Are Liars. In his Only a marketer could re-purpose lying in such a positive light. words, “A fib is a story that makes something better. It’s a way of W. Brad Johnson and Charles R. Riley (The Elements of Ethics for describing your offering (in all the ways humans describe things) Professionals) echo Harding’s sentiment and add that marketers are that makes the thing itself more effective or enjoyable. Nobody driven to win. “No one stands above the potential of deception, really minds a fib, and if your consumers find out that your story evasion, and out and out lying. When money, power, success, isn’t based on facts, they’re not enraged. A fraud on the other hand, or prestige are on the line, even highly regarded professionals is a story based on little or nothing. It’s a story you tell primarily have been found to cut corners, falsify data, plagiarize, and dupe for personal gain. And worst of all, a fraud, when discovered (and the public, clients, and their own families. In failing to submit it will be discovered) enrages your consumer—probably forever.” ourselves to rigorous scrutiny, we may find the temptation to take unfair or illegal advantage too beguiling to resist.” Another driver “SMPS is the hallmark of marketing in is the desire to avoid the feelings of inadequacy, shame, and guilt that accompany losses. the A/E/C industry. As such, it is SMPS’s responsibility to establish the bar for WHeN did We learN TO lie? ethical marketing behavior and for every Flash back to the elementary school playground. Double-dutch SMPS member to live it. ” jump rope twirlers chant, “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” while those skipping reply, “I don’t care, I don’t care, I can buy another pair,” Godin continues: “Marketing is now so well developed and so or “Your nose is longer than a telephone wire.” The latter in turn embedded in our culture that consumers no longer make decisions brings to mind images of Pinocchio, whose nose grew every time based on a rational analysis of facts. Instead, they decide based on he told a lie. Long noses and flaming britches, with such dire the stories they’re told.” As marketers, we know this. There is a consequences imprinted on young impressionable minds, who temptation to not only capitalize on this expectation but to use among us would dare—no make that double dog dare—to say it as a rationalization for not being completely honest when anything but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the preparing proposals. truth. Yet, we did and continue to do so. dO ClieNT exPeCTaTiONs exCuse Our aCTs OF lyiNg? And then…we learned the trick to bypassing the need for “ultimate truth telling.” If you crossed your fingers when you lied, it didn’t With all due respect to Godin, just because a client expects to be count! (Aw, were life still that simple.) Better still, fibs and white told a story does not excuse the act of lying. Marketers should heed lies weren’t exactly lies. They were elements within a shaded area the following quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “If I call a tail (or is that shady?) of socially acceptable lies. Mom assured us it a leg, how many legs has a dog? Five? No, calling a tail a leg doesn’t was okay to tell Aunt Louisa that her hat was lovely, even though make it a leg.” Claiming qualifications as your firm’s, fudging on it resembled a giant bird nest. We didn’t even have to cross our years of experience, or enhancing an engineer’s role in a project does fingers when we said it. Learning how to lie properly permanently not make it so. Nor is it either ethical or standard industry practice. obfuscated our early healthy respect for the truth. If you are tempted to finesse, consider why you feel it is necessary to stretch the truth at all? During our research, Craig Galati, AIA, is lyiNg ever JusTiFied? president Lucchesi Galati (in Las Vegas, NV), told us: “If you have Some marketers, and non-marketers, adhere to the philosophy a project that has a problem, you’re better off just not putting it in that circumstances dictate when it is acceptable to stretch the than you are trying to hide or talk around the issues. Then if you’re truth or to lie. Sissela Bok (Lying) writes: “In choosing whether or asked about it, you just need to tell the truth. Everybody has those not to lie, we weigh benefits against harm and happiness against types of projects. Not all of them go perfect, but to spin the truth is unhappiness.” Robert Solomon (A Better Way to Think About something that unfortunately we [SMPS members] have tolerated Business) elaborates by relating the story of a man on his death because we haven’t called people out on the carpet for it. But clients bed who discloses to his wife an affair he had several years ago. will eventually.” Solomon points out that in this particular case, “Cleansing of conscience was cruel and unnecessary and without consideration That being said, there is nothing unethical about asking for work for his spouse…his honesty served no purpose but a selfish one.” that you may be “less than qualified” to perform as long as you are up front about it. You will never be able to build up your As altruistic as it may seem, the “do-no-harm” justification qualifications in new service areas if you don’t stretch a little. Just for lying has no application for being less than honest when don’t stretch the truth. Consider the following example shared responding to an RFP or in our dealings with clients. Yet many by an SMPS member: marketers continue to lie on a daily basis and even argue that Marketer/October 2009
    • 20 “The state of Washington issued an RFP for a License Plate Renewal Study. One of the requirements was that you must THe TruTH Be TOld Ethical behavior is important to the success of each of our have performed a number of license plate renewal studies. No individual businesses. The authors’ research affirmed that the firms responded. The state then reissued the RFP, but did not basis of successful business relationships is built upon trust, and remove the stipulation. An alert marketer calculated the number lying destroys trust, erodes your client relationships, and impugns of states (50) and then checked how many had ever sponsored your firm’s reputation within the industry. license plate renewal studies (7). Making the connection between her Internet research and the RFP having been issued twice, the astute marketer estimated that the probability of “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m another firm in the state of Washington having ever done a upset that I can no longer believe you.” ‘body of work’ in this area was practically nil. The marketer —Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that her firm respond, but do so honestly. The firm submitted a proposal clearly stating they had never performed a license renewal study; they then itemized their capabilities When we tell the truth, according to Johnson and Ridley, to perform each of the individual tasks outlined in the scope, people around us find genuine harmony between our words connecting the dots for the proposal award committee. They and our actions; their concerns about hidden agendas or fears of did not try to change their qualifications; they did not attempt manipulation are dispelled. People see us as safe, and because of to mislead. They merely illustrated how the sum of the parts their feelings of safety, they more freely lower their defenses, stop could equal the total even though they had never performed playing games, and are less prone to try to manipulate us.” (P. 4) ‘the total.’ They won the job.” The bond that forms from a consistent practice of telling the truth is one of mutual trust. SMPS is the hallmark of marketing for businesses in the A/E/C industry. As such it is SMPS’s responsibility to establish the bar for ethical marketing behavior and for every SMPS member to live it. Godin drives this point home, stating that, “Until marketers start to take responsibility for the stories we tell and the promises we make, consumers will get increasingly skeptical and suspicious— and all marketers will lose.” If the “truth be told”—when you refrain from lying, you never have to remember what you said. Know the Difference Between “stretching EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was excerpted from a 2009 the Truth” and Out and Out Fraud SMPS Foundation White Paper, “Marketing Ethics: The Truth, Marketing proposals are frequently incorporated into professional the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth…or Not,” with services contracts and become part of the legally binding agreement. permission from the authors and the SMPS Foundation. For Thus, it is conceivable that falsely filling out personnel inventory forms or affirmative action documents, claiming ada compliance, more information about this and other white papers funded by or “adjusting” hourly pay rates to meet billing ratios might fall the SMPS Foundation, please go to www.smpsfoundation.org. under the legal connotation of perpetrating a fraud—an intentional deception for personal gain. likewise, it could be considered unlawful to claim (or to imply) in a proposal that a team member is a licensed architect or engineer or a registered contractor when he/ About the Authors she isn’t. The same would apply to falsely claiming a firm is licensed Taree Bollinger, CPSM, is the director of to practice in a particular state or country. administration and marketing, a firm shareholder, and member of the board of directors of FCS Group if the fraud is serious enough and you are caught, the punishment (www.fcsgroup.com), based in Redmond, WA, can range from an immediate stop order on the project and loss of which serves a niche market within the engineering the contract, to the inability to bid on future work for that client for a segment of the A/E/C industry. She can be reached specified number of years. Other consequences include cancellation at 425.867.1802 or tareeb@fcsgroup.com. of your license or registration to practice or conviction of a felony Pamela Heeke, CPSM, is marketing manager at depending on the seriousness and the state. all states maintain FCS Group. A past president of SMPS Seattle, general criminal statutes designed to punish fraud. For example, she has served on the SMPS National Striving arizona has a fraudulent scheme and artifice statute that spells out for Excellence Task Force. She can be reached at that anyone who “knowingly obtains any benefit by means of false 425.867.1802 or pamh@fcsgroup.com. This is her or fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, or material first contribution to Marketer. omissions” is guilty of a felony (ariz. rev. stat. ann. § 13-2310(a)). society for Marketing Professional services