Entry: swag (schwag?) ethics 1/23/2005

A response to a Dan Gillmor blog entry entitled 'Buzz-Makers: More Disclosure, Please'. In the article Mr. Gillmor comments on a newsweek article about companies giving Veeps free stuffs in the hope these famous people would generate buzz through their blogs (and electronic word-of-mouth in general), and calls for more disclosure from such practices. In the article's comments section:


It would be usefull I think that if anyone of you do actually talk about such products (wether to endorse or vilify) that you then disclose under what context you receive such products (given for free, from the producer, bought yourself, purposely bought with intention to criticise, etc.)

I'm not sure I remember this correctly, but in Communication Ethics and Philosophy class the foundation for Marketing's ethicality is the adult consumer's consummate ability to make informed decisions. The marketing community's sole ethical responsibility is to not set up barriers that could prevent such informed decisions from being made, eg. denying product defects publicly discovered and proven (think the Kryptonite Lock episode), preventing competitor entry into marketplace using market clout (think antitrust), etc. While in the case of Marketing Communications is to make sure all statements made are truthful (but not necessarily to disclose all product weakness through Marketing Communication efforts).

Its not a requirement on the part of the endorser, but if any consumer should decide to base purchasing decisions on such endorsement then they should scrutinize where the endorser comes from. I would think it is first the public's responsibility to demand such disclosure. If disclosure is not made then the consumer can base their purchase decision on that specific act of non-disclosure. At other times discretion would be the better part of valor.

I think.


I do agree with Mr. Gillmor that more disclosure needs to be made, its just that its also the public's responsibility to demand such disclosure. Its because responsible adults often fail to make such demands that Indonesians are so suceptible to cheap marketing tactics.

Subsequently I'm sure many Marketing and Marketing Communication students could remember that word of mouth is said to be the most effective marketing tool. And to think how powerful it has become now that the conversation is happening real-time worldwide on TBL's World Wide Web...

disclosure: I've been following Mr. Gillmor since Lawrence Lessig mentioned his book, 'We the Media' on his blog. I'm a fan, obviously.

addendum: I should also add that Word-of-Mouth is considered most effective because it is most trusted (eg. you'd trust a close friend's opinion more than the product maker's or a reviewer's or and advertisement). And also, that Marketing Communication is a knife (or gun, if you will). They don't kill, people do.

And while I'm at it, I'll also say that Psychology (wether social, clinical, or popular) is also a gun. Especially when used with Marketing Communications.


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