ethics-sign

As channels to market grow and the way in which we interact with brands changes, marketing has become far more sophisticated than ever before.

In the advertising explosion times of the 1950’s, traditional media such as radio, newspapers and magazines were vital vehicles for marketing professionals who were operating in a decade of consumerism. A zealous demand for consumer products that had been unavailable or in short supply during World War II fuelled a steady growth in manufacturing.

The latter part of the decade saw consumer anxiety, which led to marketers offering “new and improved” products to maintain demand. This decade was the first time we saw reports focused on motivational research, demographic targeting and generational marketing.

Fast forward to current time and, due to the explosion of the Internet and smart phones our customers are sprawling like never before, talking to each other, freely sharing opinion, even if they don’t actually know each other. So this is a double-edged sword and a good reason to revisit the ethics and philosophy of your organisation.

So, why do you need to check that the ethics and philosophy of your organisation are sound? The reality is, if ever it was, price is no longer the deciding factor, value isn’t the key, quality of service and product are also not the main deciding factors … “new and improved” is not enough.

We have witnessed £multi-million companies fail because they didn’t have or didn’t develop sound ethics or business philosophies – they grew and failed; because the longer people worked with them (staff, customers and suppliers) they more they got to know them and they simply got caught out in the end.

Your ethical and philosophical qualities are hugely important, from the top to the bottom, in every respect across every dimension of your organisation.

People naturally identify and align with ethical values. This means staff, suppliers and customers naturally gravitate towards organisations with strong ethical qualities, and will talk about it using so many channels.

B2B buyers are more interested than ever before in corporate integrity, defined, by your organisation’s ethics and philosophies. Having sound ethics and philosophies are essential in encouraging your people to make the right decisions and to do the right thing; this relies on taking into consideration humanity, morality, care, compassion and being good and fair.

Your buyers think:

  • Profit is okay – greed is not
  • Reward is appropriate – wealth and material gain is not
  • Trade is you business – exploitation is not

People don’t react against successful corporations, unless they are found to have behaved in an immoral way – like deliberately withholding tax contributions for profit, flouting governing rules or displaying poor managerial behaviours such as Sports Direct.

According to The Guardian article written by Paul Mason the conditions at Sports Direct were compared to conditions of a Victorian workhouse “underpayment, fines, refusal of “excessive” toilet breaks, childbirth on shift, harsh discipline and sexual harassment…”

Many will simply vote with their feet and shop elsewhere. Damaging enough, however, the City’s reaction influences the share price and willingness to invest – incidentally, if you look closely at the whole story of Sports Direct, many in the City were aware and showed concern regarding problems here as early as 2007 when the company floated.  Its defining statement to become the “most profitable sports retailer” should have been warning in itself.

But in the B2B market it doesn’t have to be a catalogue of errors, or the chopping down of rain forests, or exploitation of child labour, the simple ripple effect of (difficult to detect) bullying will, at some point be reflected somewhere that will, in turn, be detrimental to your brand.

People are not against success, look at Apple, set to become the World’s first $trillion brand. People love Apple for many reasons and because of Steve Jobs’ philosophy that runs through the organisation, implicit in every one of Apple’s products. His and Mike Markkula’s philosophy is built on caring, empathy, focus, imputing desired qualities, friendliness and simplicity.

What buyers react to:

  • Profit ahead of people
  • Growth ahead of society and communities
  • Technology and production at the cost of nature
  • Market domination over compassion for people

People naturally identify and align with ethical values. The best staff, suppliers and customers naturally gravitate towards organisations with strong values – can you consider paying your small, local suppliers the same day you receive their invoice?  We do.   Do you consider the cost of air conditioning units (and therefore, profit) over the comfort of your staff?  Do you encourage and support or do you have a culture that berates?

If you have strong ethical values and you’re not talking about them, you’re missing an opportunity.   Simply not to say anything tells your customers nothing – don’t rely on the fact that “they will take it for granted” they won’t, and they need to know. They need to know what’s at the heart of your company and who cascades it, what your behaviours and shared beliefs are, and how it impacts on your people and community.

Getting your philosophy right doesn’t need to be complex. It’s your company’s benchmark based on your moral compass that serves as an anchor for everything else:

  • Strategies
  • Processes
  • Attitudes (make it part of your recruitment process)
  • Relationships
  • Trading terms and conditions
  • Difficult decisions

Organisations have complex relationships, and they become more and more complicated every day. A good ethical philosophy provides everyone with a natural, reliable reference point, for the tiniest detail to the biggest strategic decision. It frees your staff to become guided, more creative and responsible, and makes for much smarter management.