Christian Ethics in Advertising and Promotion
Thought Leader: Shelly Zaldivar, MBA, ABD
The scenarios may differ, but the question is the same almost every time. If there is no law, no rule and no written reason not to do something, why not pursue the easiest path? In the world of marketing, this becomes even more relevant with tight deadlines, constrained budgets and goals that are not as clear-cut as they once were. The typical idea of marketing has completely changed, and functioning ethically becomes even more critical in this environment.
Whether you work in marketing or any other area of a company or ministry, you will be presented with opportunities to choose your ethical stance.
Ask almost any person for their definition of marketing, and they will usually start with a statement that relates to selling a product. Even just a few years ago, this was primarily the foundation of what marketers did. They took a product or idea and determined how to effectively sell it to a selected population. However, as customers have become savvier, the Internet has increased the ability to research before buying, the market has become saturated and the entire concept of marketing is changing. Marketing is no longer about the product – it is about the customer.
In this customer-centric world, marketing now becomes a concept that must weave throughout an entire organization. Now that marketing is no longer relegated to the group in the corner office, it is to everyone’s benefit to have a basic understanding of the marketing exchange. In fact, understanding the customer, being able to have a conversation with them via marketing and continuing that relationship is now key.
So how does a Christian leader who is part of the marketing conversation ensure that their company and their leadership is an ethical reflection that they can be proud of? I would propose there are three keys to achieving this and they are not just for the marketing team and manager.
1) Do not be afraid to be different or have a more expensive proposal or product.
One of the reasons that many leaders find themselves in a challenging position is they focus solely on cost. Cost is the easiest component of the marketing mix to change but the most challenging to maintain as a strategy. The truth is a customer is more than willing to pay for a quality product and/or campaign if they see the benefit and are comfortable with the reputability of those they are working with at the company.
2) Just because everyone is doing it does not make it right.
What is legal is not always ethical. One of the definitions in Merriam-Webster for ethics is a guiding philosophy. For the Christian, a strategy should include questions about not only the end goal but if the path to get one to that result aligns with guidance received in God’s word. This is one reason that reading a Proverb a day is beneficial for the Christian leader – it saturates one’s spirit with wisdom needed for day-to-day decision-making.
3) If you fail, learn from it and change your direction.
It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a fast-paced marketing campaign. As deadlines are pressed upon the team, cutting a corner here, borrowing an idea there or crossing a line with choices of visuals or verbiage can easily occur. However, the Christian should remember that we are responsible for every word, every action and our influence over others. Perhaps we did not speak up and question a design or strategy. Thank God for grace – it is at this point we can turn from that way and change. Sometimes this action alone - choosing to be different is enough to catch the eye of another. Many clients are looking for those who are not afraid to step outside of the norm and reflect a strong ethical purpose in their work.
Whether you work in marketing or any other area of a company or ministry, you will be presented with opportunities to choose your ethical stance. Will you be ready? Think about it ahead of time, determine where your ethical lines are drawn and practice your reasons and you will.
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