We don’t trust anyone anymore. It seems the great politicians, celebrities, corporate titans and athletes have all let us down one way or another.

And while part of our psyche seems to revel in watching the demise of greatness, there’s also a part of us that hurts a little.

Where have all the good ones gone?

Yesterday, Barry Bonds’ controversial 756th home run ball was delivered to the Baseball Hall of Fame by Mark Ecko, the fashion designer that acquired the ball in an auction for $752,467. Ecko conducted an online poll to determine what to do with the ball, and the winning choice was to carve an asterisk into the ball.

For those that aren’t aware of the significance of the asterisk, most baseball fans believe the record is dirty due to Bonds alleged steroid use and it shouldn’t count. If Bonds did indeed use steroids, he cheated. And if that’s the case, since he said he didn’t use steroids while under oath, he’ll be a liar and may be found guilty of perjury.

What does all this have to do with Responsible Marketing?

Your marketing results should never come with an asterisk. Here are are few examples to illustrate what I mean:

  • If you use fear, deception or any form of trickery to get people to buy your product, your results come with an *.
  • If you cheat, by using data you don’t have permission to use, even if you don’t get caught, your results come with an *.
  • If you lie, by greenwashing or puffery to make your product, service or company something it’s not, your results come with an *.
  • If your marketing is culturally insensitive and hurts more people than it helps, your results come with an *.
  • If your testimonials aren’t real, your results come with an *.

This is obviously just the tip of the iceberg.

I’d like to know what other marketing activities you believe are worthy of an *.

Comment below to weigh in.

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Jed says:

    That’s amazing about the ball—perfect, and certainly sad.

    This overlaps a bit with deceiving/greenwashing, but going halfway is a huge problem as well b/c companies might be doing good work, but they can shoot themselves in the foot if they’re not more explicit about what they’re doing.

    E.g. I just wrote a little piece about how a local restaurant “[strives] to support sustainable seafood, local farmers, independent local businesses, as well as the use of green products wherever possible.”

    It sounds like they’re on the right track, but why so vague? Which fishermen? Which farmers? Which green products? If you’re doing good, let your light shine!

    Their asterisk might point to an admission that they’re just paying lip service, or it might point to a list of great best practices that everyone could learn from. My internal pollyanna and cynic are battling to decide which one I think it is.

  • Interesting post today from the Smart Brand Blog: http://smartblog.wordpress.com/2008/07/08/the-birth-of-the-walmart-asterisk/

    What?! Wal-Mart (or should I say “Walmart*) isn’t reading The Responsible Marketing Blog?!!

    Tsk. Tsk.

  • Larry says:

    Great perspective, Patrick. The baseball asterisk analogy is right on target.

    Walmart* may really have something here.
    *or not.

    Time will tell…thanks for the comment and post.

  • Ryan Dancey says:

    “*”: Giving consumers a logical (but false) rationale for something when you are afraid to tell them the truth.

    Example: Talking about “investing in the future” when the Board says “make more profit today – raise prices!”

  • Alanna says:

    I think a lot of people feel like American Apparel falls under bullet #4 – their marketing is so sexualized and demeaning to women that it negates any good theiur production practices do.

  • […] Still, prior to the steroids news, baseball fans held out Rodriguez as the one person that might be able to remove the asterisk from Barry Bond’s home run record. […]

  • […] on blogs today about responsible marketing. Drew McLellan weighs in, talking about Barry Bonds, as does the responsible marketing blog. Both are discussing how easy it is to end up with a permanent asterisk next to your name. I […]

  • […] with the ginormous starburst? At first I wondered why they didn’t read my blog post about marketing without an * because that’s what it looks like—a huge […]

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