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Unethical Marketing - Don't Forget

Updated: Apr 15



Sometimes we get so caught up in promoting and advertising our products that we forget what the difference between right and wrong is. Unethical actions are wrong, and dampen the relationship between us and the consumer. Everyone wants to be able to trust and rely on their provider, right? Here are a few common unethical actions that many companies are guilty of and may not know.

The tricky thing about ethics is that different people and companies have different lines that they are willing to cross. Here are a few common unethical marketing practices that are good to be aware of… because they happen easily!

1. Misleading advertising

Also known as “false advertising,” misleading advertising is simply relaying something to you audience that isn’t the full truth. Misleading advertising also includes exaggerating or downplaying information to make your product seem better than it really is. For example, Volkswagen engaged in misleading advertising when they promoted low emission vehicles yet were actually cheating the emissions tests. To learn more about the VW emissions scandal, visit this page: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34324772.

2. Black-hat link building

Black-hat link building is when you violate search engine guidelines in order to increase the awareness of your brand. Examples of this include putting hidden text with links that only search engines can see, and inserting hidden links on your website that you don’t own or have permission to use. This article gives a little more detail about black-hat link building: https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-link-building/good-bad-ugly.

3. Contacting people without consent

The CAN-SPAM Act allows you to legally e-mail people ONE TIME without their consent. Emailing more than once counts as pushing the limits of this law, resulting in unethical behavior. Be careful not to annoy or bother your prospect customers by bombarding them with e-mails! Visit this page for more information about the CAN-SPAM Act: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business

4. Insensitive controversy

Some things are better left unsaid. There is a difference between starting up a healthy discussion over controversial topics and making blogs or ads that have the power to offend others. For example, Pepsi Co violated this when they attempted to introduce a new product into a Black Lives Matter protest. Although they had good intentions, it did not end well. Here is an article about the Pepsi Co campaign: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/05/business/kendall-jenner-pepsi-ad.html?_r=0.

5. Emotional exploitation

It’s nice to incorporate emotion into business to show consumers that you care, but it’s easy to cross the line while doing so. Sensitive subjects like the 9/11 terrorist attacks and politics should usually be avoided, you don’t want your audience to perceive your message in the wrong way! Here are other topics to avoid in ads: https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/01/things-to-never-post-on-social-media.html.

If you keep these examples in mind when you are conducting your day-to-day business, your customers will be more likely to stay loyal to you. Marketing agencies like Bare Bones are here to help you avoid these unethical behaviors.

References: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2017/05/17/5-common-unethical-marketing-practices-are-you-guilty/#444c65fc2f27


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