The general perception about Marketing integrity varies as we go across geographies. One more thing that changes at the top level is the psyche of the customer. But the fundamental point remains â€“ Integrity and value will always stick in your customerâ€™s mind and become synonymous with your brand. Compromising on this in any way will result in gradual reduction of your customer base as well as your brand appeal.
In the area of Marketing, it is sometimes quite tempting to bend the rules, however slightly. That would mean advertising your product extravagantly. The negative effect of that would be over projecting/ falsely projecting your product or your brand. Bending the rules might work in terms of achieving short term objectives but talking about long term success, it might not run its course. Apart from magnified claims, unfair comparisons to competitive brands/products, offensive advertising, and inadequate warranties are also detrimental factors to integrity. A marketer has an obligation to the buyers which is also to make sure that the product or service fulfils its promise. Without integrity, Marketing is left to tricks, lies and creating a false perception in the customerâ€™s mind.
As we try and come to grips with the usual challenges which are competition, accountability, and the struggle to master latest technologies; perhaps we should be worried about the power of a new phenomenon, that is, informed scepticism and social media. As the world is coming closer, we will see buyers interacting with each other more often through various modern tools and forms of communication. Such an environment would be a real test of oneâ€™s mettle. In this kind of world, integrity in marketing and promotion will not remain just a virtue but will become a driver of choice.
Research has shown that customers of today would prefer to be associated with a company that follows ethics, even if the price they pay is a little more. On similar lines, it has been observed that a loss of trust due to ethical misbehaviour has led to a negative change in customer behaviour where the brand as a whole has suffered.
To maintain marketing integrity, a marketer must consider some of the below-mentioned points:
- Make a fair assessment of your brand/service: Take a long hard look at your brand and the service you offer. Make a fair assessment and strategise your moves. The main thing is your belief in the brand/service you are promoting. The more you are sure, the easier it becomes to convince people/customers.
- Make a fair assessment of your advertising claims: If the service you are offering is living up to the image you are projecting in the customerâ€™s mind, then you have less reasons to worry. On the contrary, if you product/service does not do what you claim it does, then there is high need for a re-think in your strategy to maximize your marketing output.
- Put yourself in your customerâ€™s shoes: Think like your customer/target and promote the service as per their requirements and needs. The more you understand them, the more mileage you are going to get.
- Transparent Communication: Maintain clear and accurate communication at all levels. Lack of clear communication will lead to false perceptions denigrating the brand image in the eyes of your stakeholders.If there is any flaw, clear and accurate communication will not only give you brand equity but also improve your trust rating.
- Value your audience: Establish and maintain a certain level of dignity by following ethical practices. In the long run, your client/customer will appreciate these more than ambitious and vague promises.
- Be Consistent: Lack of consistency is related to lack of integrity. Inconsistency will mean the customers are not fully aware of what you are doing, leading to loss of trust.
- Learn to Accept: If there is a fault, you should not be afraid to apologize. This will help you earn respect in the market and show your clients/customers that you are only human.
One of the major challenges for organizations is to develop brand managers/leaders who practice ethical thought and consideration whilst setting up a brand planning process. Defining proper frameworks in terms of language, process and output whilst positioning you brand to target the right segment is very important. Intelligent marketing is a combination of the creativity to take strategic advantage of responsible brand behaviour in terms of image, competitiveness, finance and reputation with the commitment to integrity in marketing practice.
In order to maintain (or build) a trust factor in your customerâ€™s mind, you will need to reflect before you act. It also involves engaging with your customers and doing â€˜what is rightâ€™. Here the focus is on the marketer assuming moral responsibility and becoming accountable for fair and honest communication that will endorse brand promise, brand trust and brand integrity.