Ethical Questions for Marketers – Part 7

Welcome to the newest installment of our weekly blog series, Ethical Questions for Marketers. Each week we plan to introduce a new topic and explore it in detail, preparing marketers for the day when they face such a problem at their organization.

Last week’s topic was Ad Targeting.

This week’s topic: Deceptive Advertising

You can’t make deliberately false claims in your advertising. There are laws against that. And if you get caught and charged, the fines are sometimes enough to put you out of business. Even if they don’t, the negative press might. So don’t do it.

But what if you’re just overstating the benefits a little? Or using vague language that is not technically a lie?

No company will admit in public that they employ these kinds of deceptive advertising practices. But the truth is, many do. And as a marketer or small business owner, you need to determine how far you are willing to go and when to draw the line.

Some examples of deceptive advertising practices include:

  • Bait and switch – advertising an offer to get customers in the door or on the phone only to tell them that offer is no longer available
  • False environmental claims – stating that your product is better for the environment when it is actually not
  • Overstating benefits – making unsubstantiated claims about the impact of your product or service
  • Misleading comparisons – comparing your product to another in a way that makes customers think they’re more similar than they are
  • Photography tricks – using photos in your advertising that look nothing like what customers will actually see when they buy your product
  • Hidden fees – advertising a price that is far lower than the final price a consumer will pay

The key point to remember is that though some of these strategies may work in the short term, they will always hurt a brand in the long run. Consumers are not dumb, and they like to share stories of deception with their friends. You will develop a reputation for scamming people and eventually, your sales will suffer.

Stay tuned next week for another installment of our Ethical Questions for Marketers series. If you have an ethical topic you’d like to see addressed, write us.

Zach Heller Marketing Week in Review

The ability to prioritize tasks in an efficient and effective way is critical to success in business. And for managers, who not only need to prioritize their own workload, but that of their team, it will mean the difference between success and failure. The people who are most effective in this area have developed a standard formula, or set of criteria, which they use to measure the relative importance of all projects. The key inputs are: what does it cost (money and time), what impact will it have, do we have the required skill sets, and where does it fit within the larger organizational or departmental mission.

Here are last week’s posts, in case you missed them:

  1. Ethical Questions for Marketers – Part 6
  2. How to Make Variable Pricing Work for Your Business
  3. What Does Success Look Like?

Happy Saturday!

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What Does Success Look Like?

The title of this post is a question I would like you to start asking yourself and your team more.

“What does success look like?”

The aim of this question is to step back and think about the larger picture, whatever you’re working on. It forces you to place yourself into the future and examine what would happen if everything worked out exactly as planned.

For example, let’s say you are working on a new ad campaign. The campaign is designed to increase sales of a certain product which has been lagging. At some point during the initial strategy meetings, you ask the question: What does success look like?

Maybe the answer is, 10% growth in sales next quarter. Maybe the answer is, 3x brand mentions on social media related to this product. Maybe the answer is, 20% growth in foot traffic to the store.

Whatever the answer, assuming it is a realistic estimation of potential results, helps you keep the project in perspective. By defining expectations, you do two things for yourself and your team:

  1. Clear communication of expectations allows you to have discussions about priority. You would not spend months of time and thousands of dollars on something that realistically won’t move the needle much.
     
  2. It provides a benchmark against which you will compare actual results. If success looks like a 10% increase in sales, and you only see 3%, you know something went wrong. It gives you a tool to evaluate the project and fix it going forward.

How to Make Variable Pricing Work for Your Business

Pricing is one of the most under-discussed, under-utilized tool in marketing. Though it is one of the Four Ps we all learn about in Marketing 101, we too often take for granted that the price is the price and there’s nothing we can do about it.

But price is a lever we can use to improve returns in a multitude of ways. One popular strategy is the introduction of variable pricing to your product line.

Variable pricing, in the broadest sense, means offering different prices for the same products at different times, locations, or to different audiences. There are many different ways to do it, as the large number of companies that execute these strategies successfully have proven.

Below are a number of the most common forms of variable pricing, which you can apply to your business in order to get more mileage out of your existing marketing efforts:

  1. Amazon famously got caught showing different prices to different users for the exact same products. Amazon, and other technology-intensive companies, are in a constant state of price testing. By showing different prices for the same products over millions of different site interactions, they can use variable pricing to find the price point that provides the maximum profit for each product.
     
  2. Uber is widely derided for their “surge pricing” model, which follows the basic law of supply and demand. When more people are using the service, prices go up. You can use a similar strategy to increase profits during times of increased demand.
     
  3. Ebay made the auction pricing system popular, where customers compete on price so that sellers are able to maximize their earnings for each product. Auctions work when supply is limited by gaming demand.
     
  4. Time based pricing is common with hotels and airlines. Similar to Uber’s surge pricing model, their prices go up and down during specific times of year, days of the week, or time of day based on the likelihood that people will be travelling.
     
  5. Many physical retailers will use variable pricing based on location. They might offer a product for one price in New York City and a different price in suburban Pennsylvania.
     
  6. Discounting is a form of variable pricing many companies use. Offering discounts at specific times or to specific categories of customers helps drive sales where they otherwise might be low or non-existent.
     
  7. Pricing based on benefits allows companies to suit a product to each individual customer’s needs. Car dealers and many B2B sales use negotiation to match a variable set of “options” to the needs of the customer, where the pricing will depend on the final product.

As with any pricing strategy, your goal is to maximize profits. Use variable pricing if it allows you to find a more effective balance of sales and profit margin per sale.

Ethical Questions for Marketers – Part 6

Welcome to the newest installment of our weekly blog series, Ethical Questions for Marketers. Each week we plan to introduce a new topic and explore it in detail, preparing marketers for the day when they face such a problem at their organization.

Last week’s topic was Price Consistency.

This week’s topic: Ad Targeting

The general principle of modern advertising is this – you want to show the right ad, to the right person, at the right time. That’s what we talk about when we talk about targeted advertising.

Digital tools give marketers the ability to customize, or personalize, advertising in a number of interesting ways. First, we can show different ads to different people based on what we know about who you are. For example, men and women might see different versions of the same ad.

Second, we can show ads to people based on something unique about you. For example, you might see an ad for a cable subscription right after you move into your new home.

Ad targeting is the Holy Grail for marketers and companies right now, because the ones who get it right are able to dramatically increase their return on investment. Not only does it save money by no longer advertising to people who are not likely to purchase, but it also increases the effectiveness of the ads served because they are more relevant.

The question is, when does targeting cross the line? It is easy to see that there are lines that can be crossed. For example:

·         You might target ads for high-risk financial products to people with low incomes

·         You might target ads for alcohol-related products to someone you know has a drinking problem

·         You might target ads based on race or religion

It might be tempting for marketers to defend how they’re advertising when they can point to success in terms of revenue generated. But you cross the line when the nature of your advertising has detrimental effects on the people you are targeting.

Stay tuned next week for another installment of our Ethical Questions for Marketers series. If you have an ethical topic you’d like to see addressed, write us.