Discussions on ethics are rarely black and white and, at best, they remain dependent on the context at which an action called into question is in as well as the consequences that could and would take place if said action is undertaken. This goes for marketing as well - be it digital or not.
Marketing, as a whole, always bore the brunt of ideologically* two opposing elements: money and people. Marketing involves business and business has one major bottomline - profit. But, sometimes, the need to profit often go beyond the need to be just and fair and, most often than not, people are unaware that they have crossed the line.
Online, it gets a little more complicated.
There are already regulations and codes of ethics in place when it comes to marketing. However, there are those that have yet to touch on new media. The evolution of the internet was more than fast for regulators scrambling to catch up and it's not a very pretty sight. (UPDATE: Perhaps a gleaming example would be the FDA's take on pharmaceutical companies wading through unregulated social media waters. Read more here and here.)
So, where does one actually begin dissecting the rules of ethics online?
- Truth well told**. As marketers, we are able to excite our consumers and tickle their fancy in so many ways. We tell stories and, in every story, we know that we hit each and every weakpoint that pushes them towards purchase. A cup of coffee is not just coffee, it's an experience. A shoe is not just a shoe, it's a lifestyle. But, to convince consumers to act according to what you intend them to do is far different from manipulating the truth in order to do so.
- Respect. To be the bearer of information entails a semblance of being fair towards all groups of people be it in terms of gender, race, class. Of course, marketers have biases for their target demographic but it should not come as a means to harbor hate towards other demographics.
*I say ideologically as most people have latched on to the idea that money is the root of all evil and, at a long jump, evil corrodes the very being a person ought to become. Ayn Rand gives an alternative view on the matter saying that it's not necessarily so. Again, ethics is never black and white.
**McCann Erickson uses this as a slogan.
+This post is part of the CDMP Week series, a week-long series of blog posts aimed at explaining digital marketing strategies through offline analogies. This has been partially intended as a fulfillment of one of the requirements of the Certified Digital Marketing Program (formerly known as the Digital Marketing Diploma Program). The CDMP (DMDP) is a one-year diploma course under the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philipppines (IMMAP) and Ateneo's Center for Continuing Education (Ateneo CCE). Enrollees go through a crash course on a number of digital marketing concepts and tactics and, in the end, have the opportunity to be dubbed as one of the few Certified Digital Marketers as recognized by IMMAP. To learn more, visit www.imadigitalmarketer.com or go to their Facebook page here.