Principles of Ethical Marketing

“Aww, it’s just marketing…”

You probably heard people use marketing as a derogatory term.

Admit it, you probably did too. Why?

You can probably think of many examples when marketing wasn’t practiced ethically. It’s true that one doesn’t need to go far to find them. Spam emails that lack “unsubscribe” buttons, misleading packaging, annoying pop-up or video ads that you cannot skip.

Marketing can go wrong for all the same reasons business can go wrong: misaligned incentives, short-term focus, and tunnel vision.

But business is not inherently and inevitably net-negative to society – quite the contrary. So isn’t marketing.

The thing is not all marketing is created equal. It’s just that some people in marketing make wrong decisions. Just like some engineers ignore safety standards, some doctors overprescribe medications, and some businesses pollute the environment.

Essentially, marketing is simply helping organizations serve more customers.

More specifically, marketing is about finding the right customers who actually need your product, using their feedback to make the product better, and consistently communicating useful information through the right channels and at scale.

With this in mind, I decided to outline a few high-level principles of ethical marketing.

Principles of Ethical Marketing

  1. Create value before capturing value.
  2. Long-term over short-term optimization.
  3. Customer feedback over company politics.
  4. Educate customers instead of misleading them.
  5. Build products that people want instead of selling the ones you have.
  6. Target customers who can benefit from the product instead of targeting everyone.
  7. Measure NPS, retention, virality, and product usage in addition ROI, revenue, and growth metrics.
  8. Consider the impact of marketing decisions on employees, other companies, society, government, and environment.

Here you go, a small manifesto of sorts.

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Monthly Newsletter: Issue 1

This is an issue of my monthly newsletter. Main topics: technology, startups, business growth, and marketing. See other issues on my blog or subscribe. ~Max

Technology and Startups

  • Ten-year Futures – a presentation by A16z. New technologies enable new use cases. Seeing them, as well as non-obvious “second order” effects, is key. E.g. mobile enabled Instagram, Instacart, and ride-sharing.
  • Decrypting Crypto – another presentation by A16z. Bitcoin is a combination of three old technologies: hashcash, public key cryptography, and distributed ledger. Value of cryptocurrencies goes beyond the traditional store of value and medium of exchange. E.g. tokens can help bootstrap new protocol-level innovation and incentivize developers, customers, and investors to contribute.
  • AlphaGo Zero masters the game of Go from scratch. The ML algorithm learned the game without any pre-existing understanding of rules or strategies. Building a general or at least a-little-bit-less-narrow AI appears to be a big priority for DeepMind. Perhaps this can count as a small step in this direction?
  • Delivering blood with drones in Rwanda – a TED talk by the founder of Zipline. What an amazing application of new technology and a case study in social entrepreneurship.
  • Tacotron 2 is a new text-to-speech technology by Google that is (almost?) indistinguishable from a human voice. If Google manages to make it less computationally demanding and ship it as part of the Android OS, all kinds of interesting use cases will be made possible. I personally will listen to more of my Pocket articles in audio.
  • Magic Leap is launching its SDK, shipping in 2018. AR/VR is already quite a saturated market. It’s not entirely clear yet how hyped Magic Leap technology will compare to Microsoft HoloLens, as well as to VR headsets: HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

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