Brands and boundaries

Brands and boundaries

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Marketers face this dilemma every day. They must push some boundaries past the point of pain in order to get the jump and be competitive. At the same time, they must clearly stay within constraints such as ethics and regulatory requirements in order to retain integrity, reputation and a clean record.

The two should balance: think ambitiously; compete responsibly.

Bad things happen when they don’t. Bubbles form. Temptations rise. And as they do, the urge to scuff the chalkmarks increases. The GFC is the poignant repercussive example of what happens when borders get realigned: when organisations reset their ethical boundaries and then use those reframed parameters as the basis for more ambitious (read: morally dubious) behaviours that they rationalise as necessary, even “responsible” in order to remain competitive.

It’s comfortable for most marketers to forge ways to profitably pursue their purpose because the money triumphs and the purpose justifies. You can make target and validate getting  there as having done something good in the process. It’s a much greater challenge for brands to work through how they will purposefully pursue their profit – because then, the behaviours are front and centre and the profits are the validation that customers support and reward you for choosing to behave that way.

2 thoughts on “Brands and boundaries

  1. “They must push the boundaries…” Hmmm. Even after reading the qualifiers that follow, I’m not certain if you feel pushing boundary lines of ethics and integrity are an inherent but necessary evil… and so to some extent, albeit balanced against other considerations, must be embraced. (And if I’m interpreting your remarks incorrectly, feel free to stop reading now).

    I believe that what brands need to do is quit thinking in terms of what they can get away with and push themselves past the expedient answers of a half-true-but-not-likely-to-get-sued-for claim or other “trick,” and push their boundaries of self-discovery to get at a meaningful, differentiating truth to offer up in the marketplace. Corporate “leadership” likes to think itself forceful for flogging its minions to push for ever bigger, invariably short term, gains, but they’d do better, at least in the long term, by letting the organization invest more time in developing meaningful improvements and/or discover their most motivating, and true, current benefits. Or perhaps that’s what you mean by “purposefully pursue their profit”

    1. That’s exactly what I meant. Brands must indeed work harder than to simply opt for the expedient, short term, self-centered answers if they are to cultivate trust and truth. Thanks for your thoughts Chuck. Believe it or not, we’re actually on the same page …

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