Northeastern University marketing professor Bruce Clark wrote an article on marketing ethics titled Helping Customers Avoid “Bad” Choices.
« Marketing as Closing Gaps. At a fundamental level, good marketing should improve a customer’s situation in some way. The customer is experiencing a gap between where they are and where they want to be, and that gap is big enough that they are open to or looking for a solution… As the customer gap becomes large enough to trigger search (“how can I solve this problem?”), they must make choices. We encourage customers to choose our solution over competing solutions. »
« We cannot (and I’ll argue should not) control the choices customers make, but it is my belief that we should try to help customers avoid bad choices, which I will define as a choice that widens rather than reduces the gap. We cannot necessarily guarantee that we close the gap fully, but can we at least not make the gap worse? »
« I will argue that there is no long-term money in encouraging bad choices. We might get the sale once, but we won’t get repeat purchase and in a social media age we may well earn negative reviews and press. Let’s not make the “detractor” portion of our customer base any larger than we have to. Cost effectively “fixing the negatives” may even have outsize benefits to the extent customers are more sensitive to losses than gains. »
« Let’s see if we can get beyond legal disclaimers that are about protecting us rather than customers. »
« Improving the Decision Processes around Choices…How can we help them find the best choices for them? »
« A nice HBR article I use with students is Spenner and Freeman. The article’s title is “To Keep Your Customers, Keep it Simple.” The subtitle is, “They don’t want a ‘relationship’ with you. Just help them make good choices.” They argue that we make can make our purchase-decision journeys too complicated, and customers’ lives our complicated enough. They propose a “decision simplicity index” that answers three questions:
1. How easy is it for customers to navigate information about a brand?
2. How much can they trust the information they find?
3. How readily can they weigh options? »
« Enabling Competence »
« This is where social media can cut through the clutter. How many of us have typed “how to X” and then called up the YouTube video with the answer? … People are going to search on the internet and social media: let’s make sure there is some useful and trustworthy information about us that they can find. »
« Directing customers to the website or, increasingly, using chatbots of some kind is fine as far as it goes, but if someone needs a person let’s try not to make them go through six hoops to get there. »
« Enabling competence means helping people navigate, trust and weigh information in a way that addresses their limitations and capabilities. If customers are making a consequential decision and the information environment is either complicated in general or challenging for vulnerable populations in particular, we need to be careful. »
« Enabling Choice »
« I’m not a big fan of us trying to guess exactly what a customer wants (personalization). I’m much more positive about letting customers choose from among a set of options that means they have a good chance of choosing a satisfactory product (customization). »