Transparent Marketing

Transparency in marketing taken to new heights! (courtesy of laffy4k)

The subject of ethics in marketing has been broached numerous times, and one of its key issues relate to disclosure and openness. Or more specifically what colouring agent E224 in your breakfast cereal really means.

In the age of social media, information has become abundantly available for free.

Unsure about what this company is telling you about its product? Just google its name and look around for the reactions of others, especially those unrelated to the company.

Need to be certain that you are paying a fair price for this service? Simply check out one of the existing forums and discussion boards related to this.

Even if you can't find existing information available on the net, you can still ask around. There are at least a billion or more folks online at any one time around the world. Surely, somebody would have the answer.

Against such a backdrop, one needs to be honest and open. "You can run but you can't hide" as the saying goes. Declare to the world what really goes into that quarter pounder, where you source your raw materials from, or how often you truly give to your favourite charity.

Trying to fudge it or ignore the problem will not do. Doing it on prime-time news is suicidal (even if you are a Hollywood actor or actress). Just ask the list of companies who have done it - Walmart & Edelman, Worldcom, Whole Foods, and Kryptonite Locks among others. Denial is a poor strategy to follow deception.

Being transparent in marketing means being honest, sincere and open without giving away the game to your competitors. It means revealing information which would affect the health of your consumers without having to suffer the Michael Moore effect (eg Supersize Me). It means paying attention to the values which your customers hold dear, and correcting your business practices if they run counter to those values. It also means being able to say sorry the moment something explodes in your organisation's face, and being truly remorseful about it through sincere corrective measures.

Sharing one's business and thinking process can actually work to one's advantage. People who use your products or services may be curious about what goes on behind the scenes. Tell them how much you invest in training your staff, or how each and every widget goes through an intensive 50-step process. Share with them your CEO's dream and vision, as well as the pains that you take to ensure that every ingredient is organically sourced for in a planet friendly farm.

It won't be easy of course. Marketers (and publicists) are usually trained to say things which are sugar-coated and nice. Saying the positive things about one's company is a piece of cake. Spilling the dirty beans is another thing altogether. However, in this day and age, customers probably expect nothing less from us than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

So help us God.

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