Posts Tagged ‘ethical issue’

Marketers can sometimes create a powerful influence over customers by taking advantage of their believes and practiced rituals.

So if I want to sell you a bottle of juice and convince you that it is good for your blood pressure, bones, aging skin, hair, and the bonus, it helps you lose weight! Then, this is how it gonna be:

  • Give it a strange name, and preferably a name of something real, rare, and its benefits have never been scientifically proven. So try a fruit name from South America!
  • It should be pricy; you know, scarce stuff cost!
  • It should not be available everywhere. Choose only some big stores as your distribution outlets; or better yet, try phone and home visiting marketing techniques!
  • Now the big trick! To convince people that a singe kind of unknown drink can virtually solve all their health problems, they better perceive it as some kind of medicine! So regardless of the fact that you are selling it as 100% natural juice, you better convince them that they need to take it in dosages. You know, small spoon before breakfast, and one after sleep, I mean before sleep! That would emphasis the image of a medicine, wouldn’t it?
  • Give them an extended period of time to start noticing changes. Again, to start noticing!  Something like a month could be good! And hey, if it did not work, they must have done something wrong, maybe did not commit to the precise dosages or times of taking the medicine, I mean the juice!

p.s. this post is based on a true story!


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So the World Cup is getting serious these days and the games are getting … hotter!! But this is not the only thing getting hotter in South Africa. Have you read the news about the Holland’s fans who have been sent off the stadium during the Holland Vs. Denmark match?

Before going into this, let’s define something in marketing, something called ‘Ambush Marketing.’ It is when a company attempts to advertise its product/brand in an event without being an official sponsor of that event. Put differently, it is advertising without paying a load of cash to the organizer to win a sponsorship deal. Such attempts usually take place around the event. Like for example, when a company sponsors a team that is playing in a tournament sponsored by its rival.

Now, let’s go back the World Cup. The beer sponsor of the tournament, and the one that is allowed to advertise inside the stadiums, is Budweiser, the American brand. A Dutch brewery named Bavaria NV tried to throw itself an ambush marketing campaign by giving money to about 36 ladies to wear orange mini-skirts and grab the attention of  photographers and TV cameras during the game; and attract they did! Although the girls’ dresses showed no brand on them, the what so called ‘Dutchy dress’ resembles the color of the Bavarian orange beer bottles (read here & here). Noting that the Dutch company refused the allegations (read here).

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=holland+fans&iid=9116600″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9116600/football-holland-denmark/football-holland-denmark.jpg?size=500&imageId=9116600″ width=”500″ height=”304″ /]

Anyway, I am writing about this incident for two reasons, or two lessons:

  • Lesson 1: When advertising, catch the eyes of your audience. I am not saying bring beautiful women and let them wear mini-skirts (a lot of advertisers actually do!!). But try to stay away from typical ideas and visual executions. Sometimes a simple image with a meaning could deliver your brand message more elegantly.
  • Lesson 2: When regulating sponsored events, be clear and act fast. That’s what FIFA did. Those girls were sent off the stadium by the second half of the game, and FIFA is contemplating legal actions against Bavaria. Now, take this to Saudi Arabia and especially the football league sponsorship deals. It is nothing but a mess between the three main players (the telecom companies). Sharp cuts between the different sponsorship deals are not clear and many ambush marketing campaigns are taking place under the nose of the organizers!

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President Obama and his administration have been under pressure to take a firmer stand against the the tragedy of the oil spill taking place at the Gulf of Mexico. As days were passing by without any hope of a working solution, people frustration was getting stronger and they were expecting their President to do the same. So on one of his TV interviews, Mr. President responded to a question about how the crisis meetings were going on by stating that one of these meetings’ goals was ‘to determine whose ass to kick.’

So ‘Should Leaders Ever Swear?’ was the question asked by Dan McGinn recently on HBR Blog. Should leaders really give up formality in certain situations to attain certain goals? Or such tongues slips could cost the leaders and their organizations later on?

Strangely, the post refers to a study that has been published in 2007 where the researchers emphasized the importance of using unconventional or uncivilized language in the workplace. Not only that, but they also grouped workplace profanity into two categories:

  • Social Swearing: where swearing just pops up in the middle of causal conversations.
  • Annoyance Swearing: which is used in stressed situations to release pressure or used as ‘relief mechanism’ as they put it.

However, both types of swearing mentioned above should not be so much treasured when talking about PR activities, branding initiatives, dealing with staff, or in front of customers. Using improper language could cost the organization a lot of its image and authenticity in the eyes and hearts of its customers. And could definitely makes it a repulsive place to be working in.

Not only organizations, even when we are talking about personal branding of leaders (business or not) and celebrities of any kind, having a bad mouth is a trait that sticks to the person and cannot be easily forgotten.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=Rooney&iid=9151450″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9151450/football-england-algeria/football-england-algeria.jpg?size=500&imageId=9151450″ width=”234″ height=”167″ /]Jack Welch, the infamous CEO of GE between 1981 and 2001 was known, beside his managerial abilities, to have a tough tongue that likes to throw the f-bomb now and then. And for those following up the World Cup nowadays, we’ve just seen the poor kid named Rooney throws some of highly tuned trash at the camera after England’s last match with Algeria (read about it here)!!

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=medical+professional&iid=239766″ src=”0236/51d5f07e-2b87-485f-9b5f-1e6f774bd3ec.jpg?adImageId=8877895&imageId=239766″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]Believe it or not, about 15,000 individuals working in the Saudi healthcare centers should not be working in the field at all according to this press release in Okaz (in Arabic). Some of them have fake certificates and some of them are not licensed to practice.

It seems to me that there are big flaws in the recruitment process followed by our health institutions. Given that we have a Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCHS) working in the field as a regulator for medical professions since 1992; you have to wonder what were they really doing all this time?

I do not claim to be totally aware of their regulations but I’ve heard their representatives talking on the radio and read some of their comments in newspapers and it seems that they are doing a good job; again, it seems! As I understand, every health professional has to undergo a written test in his/her field before being eligible for practicing in the field. And to renew the license, he/she has to go through certain training programs in addition to adhering to renewal tests again and again.

The fact of the matter that recruiting medical professionals is a one unique human resources practice that I am not sure our health institutions understand rather than follow. Background checks on experience and source of education becomes almost mandatory to any applicants in this field. Furthermore, the technique of interviews and tests should be unique to the profession that certainly requires certain skills and personalities to be able to practice it.

Someone could go further and argue that the acceptance process in medical schools or any health education institutions should be refined because it is almost obvious, it is not suitable for everyone, even if they have the highest grades in high school!!

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I am almost sure that you have been through the situation of complaining to a company representative about his/her company’s mistake or shortcoming and got this justification ‘I totally understand your point … but it is not my fault, I already forwarded your issue to department X and they are just sleeping on it.’ And it is not only a customer – company interaction; it could be a company – company situation as well. Are you working in a company where your manger is always shouting in meetings something like: ‘I do not give a damn about department Y; we have to finish our part and throw the ball in their field, they are the ones causing the project delay.’ Now this is what I like to call ‘Passing the Ball’ theory; the responsibility is the ball, and the different departments are the players!!

I believe such examples reflect a major defect in any organization’s structure. Not only that, they also reflect a major flaw in any organization’s internal values and overall culture. How horrible the defect is and how is it possible to fix it depends on how big the gap is.

In company – company situations; ‘passing the ball’ theory will result in a crippled work flow, many clashes between the various departments, popularity of back stabbing between staff, and a clear deviation from the organization overall strategy. After all, everyone is actually following his own agenda and trying as much as possible to clear his/her own field.

In company – customer situations; in addition to the above, we have the severe hit on the organization brand equity, image, and its credibility amongst its customers. Such incidents if repeated will result in nothing rather than customers switching over to competitors.

Someone would argue that we are not living in Utopia; such incidents happen all the time in all companies because avoiding responsibilities is a human nature after all. I can’t totally agree with this logic. However, responsible companies usually detect the development of such behavior in its early stages and deal with it right away. They consider it against their culture and internal values. Top management practically avoids it and not only preaches about it because managers understand the long term effects of such behavior on the company.

Moreover, this behavior usually appears to the surface whenever problems kick in! Pointing fingers and accusations start to fly all over the place. Interestingly, it is not only taking place in the professional life; it is happening in schools, universities, and even within the one own family!

So … when was the last time you passed the ball?

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Picture from http://www.lbcgroup.tv
Picture from http://www.lbcgroup.tv

The ‘Saudi sex bragger’ case is back to surface after sentencing a Saudi female journalist to 60 lashes for her participation in the infamous episode that allegedly shocked the Saudi community and has been produced by LBC TV (Lebanese Broadcasting Corp.).

What interests me in this post is the behavior of LBC management toward this case since its outbreak few months ago.

First of all, it should be highlighted that the channel strategy was built upon targeting the Saudi market in a very direct way by producing programs that are entirely designed to address Saudi local issues. News, cultural, commentary, and sports shows have been aired presenting and hosting Saudi figures to discuss Saudi matters. The reason is obvious, the huge Saudi advertisement market. Increase our Saudi audience, so Saudi advertisers would keep coming. This strategy proved to be successful and they kept a fair share of the Saudi advertisement market.

After the disruption broke out because of that episode, the Saudi authorities closed the channel offices in both Riyadh and Jeddah; they asked all the local media related agencies to stop working with LBC, and many companies decided to stop advertising on the channel.

From a business perspective, this is a disaster. I can understand that the case is debatable in so many ways; free speech rights, ethicality, the LBC own values, and its audience cultural backgrounds are all mixed up in a very complicated way. However, given all this, the management reaction which was ‘almost nothing’, is still unexplainable to me.

In such incidents, a management recovery plan should be geared up to ensure the minimum possible losses. I am not taking the side of any possible point of view to suggest a particular course of action, but I am supporting taking an action at the first place. Now, the lack of reaction is costing the corporation a lot of its brand value. People are explaining its ‘nothing reaction’ as an ignorance sign to the whole Saudi culture. Consequently, the confidence and credibility of the channel is spiraling downward, and this is something not a single TV channel would like to go through!

The lesson here is straight forward, when you have a disaster, act fast … act now!

(Just for calrification, after this post by one day, the Saudi female reporter mentioned above has been pardoned by King Abduallah)

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If you are not familiar with the retail market in Saudi Arabia, then you have to note that when I say flirting with customers, then I mean salesmen flirting with female shoppers because around here, it is not allowed to women to be sales representatives (we may take Fitihi as an exception, it is the only retile brand that employs women as sales agents).

The problem of having salesmen making indecent gestures and inappropriate moves towards women shoppers is not new especially in the femininely dominated part of retailing (e.g. cosmetics, lingerie, and women ware). It must be shocking to realize this fact in the Saudi market; in the society known for its over rated conservatism, its women are discussing their intimate body sizes with total strangers!

There are so many dimensions to this problem. However, I would like to tackle it from the customer service point of view. All over the world, having sweet talking sales personnel is definitely a must. Nevertheless, sweet talks and genuine smiles is something and giving some sexual harassment comments is something else. And justifying these inappropriate acts by labeling them as sales tactics is just sick (you may want to read this Arab News article).

Moreover, and after reading this another Arab News article as well, it is really troubling to see that there is a huge number of women going through such situations without standing up for their rights by not reporting such indecent acts. And if some of them actually do, the lame reactions of marketing managers (some of them, at least) to such incidents are despicable.

There are always some cultural and ethical factors that should be weighted when designing or looking into any customer encounter experience. And when it comes to a market where the most legal or acceptable way of interaction between males and females in public is within the retail markets boundaries, then these issues should be carefully treated. I am not referring to those women who are seeking such kind of attention, those are another story, but my concern is women who are harassed by those ‘thinking they are all cute’ kind of sales personnel.

It seems to me that stricter regulations should be put on place to prevent such ethical crimes. In addition to that, encouraging affected women to place complains and thoroughly investigating them should be emphasized to both customers and staff.

p.s. I am sure that of one the logical questions that you may want to ask; why women are not allowed to work in retail sales sectors especially in these female oriented markets … mmm … ok, that’s may need another post!!

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