Marketing professionals, throughout their careers, face ethical dilemmas. It becomes tough when one has to market a product whose consumption is unhealthy and unsafe like cigarettes. Advertising professionals do introspect about their own campaigns as whether these campaigns were misleading and unethical . Companies marketing essential items find themselves in a tight spot when they themselves feel that price fixed for it is predatory.
Morality and religion teach us to be truthful, honest, free of deception but the real world forces us not to follow these very basic guidelines. A successful American entrepreneur, author and public speaker, Seth Godin wrote in his bestseller All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low Trust World. ”All marketers tell stories. And if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche Cayenne is vastly superior to a $36,000 VW Touareg, even if it is virtually the same car. We believe that $225 Pumas will make our feet feel better–and look cooler–than $20 unbranded ones. . . and believing it makes it true.”
If modern marketing is all about believing and convincing your customers to demand a product that fulfills their desires; how can marketers be truthful in selling a product honestly and ethically? Some of these valid questions were addressed by a very successful entrepreneur, founder and CEO of one of the largest food companies of Pakistan, at a talk delivered by him which revolved around ethical dilemmas faced by marketers. He recommended the audience, a mix of young and experienced marketers, to indulge themselves in “Shariah Compliant Marketing”.
The distinguished speaker who once worked in the advertising sector emphasized that since Islam is a complete code of life, our professional and business dealings should strictly adhere to Shariah. If we lead a simple life by following Quran and Shariah, we as marketers will only focus on the needs of the market and not on the wants and desires of the customers. This should be done because desires are unbridled and in a way contrary to the teachings of Islam. By creating desires we are going against what is ordered by Allah. There is a Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) “He who has unlimited desires is deprived of the wealth of contentment.” Besides religion, it has societal impact like a whitening cream marketed in dark skin countries cannot make a person similar to European fair skinned females after usage as shown in the advertisement.
Marketing spend should not be extravagant but reasonable. When companies allocate a significant portion of their budget in marketing, their product adds to the costs. As a consequence, the price of the product increases which adds to the worries of a common man. Rather than spending heavily on marketing companies should divert that budget to the uplift of society, which according to him will uplift the image of the company. This image building will translate into brand building.
Advertising should be free of manipulation, deception and sexual appeal. Advertising and marketing professionals should be truthful and honest. Basic purpose of advertising should be informing the public. He shared example of success of his company where they did minimal marketing activity yet sales of his company grew because the product was good and it built trust of the customers. Marketers should be custodian of trust.
Shariah compliance marketing fits to what management guru Peter Drucker once expressed about marketing. Drucker said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
People might disagree with these ideas but in the corporate world, companies can spend billions in creating goodwill by marketing ethically and in accordance with Shariah . This goodwill will ultimately lead to sales. Seems like a winning formula in the world and hereafter!