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How Clean is Your Marketing Conscience? Test it.

by Alf Nucifora

It's time again for our quarterly business ethics brush-up. Time to do a little soul searching and kneeling at the business confessional. As always we're not concerned with the easy business choices e.g., envy, greed, sloth, coveting thy neighbors... The emphasis here is on the more subtle offenses that tend not to get much attention in either the Sunday pulpit or the pages of Forbes Magazine.

The Top 10 Test Of Right Or Wrong

The examples run from the trivial to the extreme but they all make a point. And, you've probably encountered one or more if you practice in the hard-bitten world of marketing.

  1. Share The Glory: You're writing the monthly status report to the Board detailing the performance of your division. The talk in the corridor is about the incredible success resulting from an innovative strategic suggestion championed by a competitor in your division. Trouble is, you really dislike the guy. It's a personal thing. You deliberately fail to acknowledge his contribution and take all the glory yourself. Right or wrong?

  2. The Silent Kick-back: You're a consultant. A client, who trusts you implicitly, asks you to recommend a third party vendor for a planned capital purchase. You provide a vendor recommendation but fail to mention that the vendor is going to commission you on the lead...the classic 10% off the top routine. Incidentally, the vendor in question does good work and there's no fiddling with the pricing structure because of your referral fee. You choose not to say anything to your client about the arrangement. Right or wrong?

  3. He's Not In Right Now: You don't use voice mail and your assistant who screens your call advises that Mr. Unhappy who has been trying to track you down for the past week is on the line. You have time to take the call. Courtesy alone dictates that you take it, but you choose to blow it off with any one of the common excuses i.e., he's in a meeting, he's on the phone talking to London. Right or wrong?

  4. Promises Not Kept: You run a research firm and recently sold a proposed industry study to a group of clients based on the guarantee that you'll be conducting interviews with 100 industry influentials. Because of timing and logistical difficulties you only complete 75 of the interviews. But you're still going to lose a ton of money on the deal. You priced the study too low to begin with and it ended up absorbing more time than you had projected. Your clients, those who bought the study, have already pre-paid and like the results even though you fell short of the guaranteed interview count. You choose to remain silent and not proportionally rebate your clients for the short-fall. Right or wrong?

  5. The Refund Not Refunded: You're flying to meet a client in another city. At the last minute you decide to extend the trip to visit a second client while you're on the road. The deal is that your clients always rebate you in full for travel expenses. You bill both clients for the full, return airfare from your city to theirs in spite of the fact that you were able to secure a multi-city, discounted fare and in the process made money on the deal. Right or wrong?

  6. The Money-Back Guarantee: Your sales literature very clearly states that a dissatisfied customer is entitled to a full refund or credit irrespective of the reason or the cause. You do a job for a client but, because of contributory negligence on both sides, as well as lack of clear definition and cause of the problem, your client chooses to pay you and let the matter drop. You believe that you went above and beyond the call of duty in addressing the client's needs. But, you still don't offer a refund. Right or wrong?

  7. The Plane Crash: You're the marketing director of a major airline. One of your planes crashes because of airline negligence. You know that you have to expose the airlines insurance representatives to the next-of-kin as soon as possible in order to negotiate quick settlements. The longer the delay, the greater the risk that a class action suit attorney will get to them first and force protracted litigation which in turn will result in higher settlement costs. It doesn't feel right to force a confrontation with the next-of-kin at their greatest moment of vulnerability but you do it anyway. Right or wrong?

  8. The Name Dropper: You and I meet for the first time. During the meeting you ask me to provide names of friends and associates, people who might be prospects for your product or service. You subsequently write them a letter and in the opening paragraph you mention that the referral came from me. The problem is, you did it without my permission. When I gave you the names, I neglected (and you deliberately failed) to mention the issue. Right or wrong?

  9. The Fake RFP: You're the head of a young, aggressive advertising agency and you'd love to know how your competitors package and present themselves. So you fake an RFP for an imaginary account that's up for review, send it out and specify that responses be mailed to a blind postal address. Your competition wastes precious time responding to a fictitious request for proposal and you gain valuable insights into your competitors' psychology and marketing technique. Right or wrong?

  10. Fresh From the Faucet: You're in the bottled water business. Unlike your competitors' products, your water doesn't come from natures source. No gurgling springs for you. You take good old-fashioned town water, distill it, treat it and package it with a fake, natural-sounding name, together with label artwork resplendent with waterfalls and bubbling brooks. A classic case of the reality not matching the perception. But, it's great marketing. Right or wrong?

I failed on 7 of the 10 and consider myself a reasonably honest and honorable person. How did you do?

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