Saturday, August 4, 2007

Long live the real CEO

The new millennium is only 7 years old and it’s already littered with scandals, perp walks and a declining trust of people in institutions: Enron, Jack Abramoff, WMD’s in Iraq, Pet Food Recalls, Barry Bonds, Catholic Church sex scandal - you name it. And we thought the 80’s were the decade of greed.
Boy, have we learned from the 80’s and perfected the skill of distorting the truth just to get ahead or make another buck.

Politicians and industry tycoons have started to pay the price, either by going to jail or suffering historically low approval ratings. Marketers have been spared iron curtains so far but our credibility has suffered dramatically.
Sure, we can always point at technology for the rise of social networks and peer-to-peer marketing. But that’s only part of the picture. People don’t believe in ads and don’t trust marketers anymore because too often we acted without integrity and rather shady: Business managers went to jail for ‘creative accounting’.
Marketers went to the ‘Consumer Ignorance Jail’ because of ‘Creative Marketing’.
Just have a look at the current WOM bandwagon.
Ok, any intern understands now that WOM is the best and most efficient way to connect with consumers. And there are many brave souls out there trying to find this connection in an ethical way. But the vultures are closing in: Faux blogs, blog aggregators selling their soul to the almighty dollar, bloggers turning into escort services (Can somebody say Payperpost?) for corporations.

People look for integrity when connecting with a brand. The current ‘green’ and ‘organic’ trend is proof of that new found desire for deep-rooted integrity. But most brands don’t understand yet that integrity is not a ‘nice to have’, rather the admission price to be considered by customers, one of the pillars of a strong brand. And it shows: Good companies have rules for ethical conduct. And that’s where it ends. Employees and executives have to figure out the rest. If they fail, companies are fast to drop them and point at their ethical playbook. Most organizations don’t offer discussions about ethical conduct and hope that their rulebook will suffice.

It doesn’t.

People are hesitant buying from good companies.
They expect more - A great company. Or even better, a great, ethical
company with 3 basic rules:

- People are not cash cows, they are brand partners.

- We only sell products that are exceptional. And don’t try to cover up mediocre products with exceptional advertising.

- Long-term relationships are more valuable than quarterly profits.

Oh boy, the CFO doesn’t like to hear any of this. But the CFO doesn’t like to hear either that the company is going under because consumers were disrespected and mediocre products didn’t sell.

Maybe it’s time for the Chief Ethical Officer: An executive that clearly defines the ethical roadmap to avoid the fate of the Enrons of this and future worlds. An executive that shares power with the CMO and reports to the Chief Executive Officer. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need a Chief Ethical Officer. But people have given up on the perfect world. They are happy with an ethical company that believes in integrity. Let’s give them what they want.

No comments: