The lead story in the October 15, 2007 issue of DM News discusses accusations from New York State attorney general Andrew Cuomo of “misleading marketing practices” through various media, including direct mail, teleservices, television, radio, and online. (If you click on that link, you can download the issue.)
One example is about companies who are accused of “mailing commercial offers designed to look like official letters from the US Department of Education.”
I can’t comment on the specifics of these accusations or whether they’re accurate. But I’ve been a staunch advocate of ethical marketing for many years. I even wrote a long article in Direct Marketing Magazine back in 1998 about the problems caused by the so-called “sweepstakes scams” at that time and how it could impact our industry.
I’ll repeat now what I said then: “I believe that we need to make a greater effort to make ethics part of the equation.” How? How about by not lying to people? I think that would work for starters. Specifically, we should ask ourselves a few questions about everything we do:
- What is the truth about this product, service, or cause?
- Am I telling this truth in my advertising message?
- Does my prospect understand that this is a solicitation?
- Am I concealing or omitting any facts my prospect would want to know?
- Am I falsifying any information?
- Is any element of my message or format misleading?
- What is my intention with this technique?
- Does my success depend on trickery?
- What would my customers think if they knew what I was doing to get their business?
- What are the long-term consequences of what I am doing?
Every time there’s a major scandal in our industry, it leads to legislation. If we don’t watch it, we could allow ourselves to be legislated out of business.
I’ve said it a hundred times. If you have a product or service that requires trickery to sell, GET ANOTHER PRODUCT OR SERVICE!