In marketing, we always talk about aspirations and taking a brand from where it currently is to where we want it to go. How far can you ethically push aspiration, and when does that change from a positive thing to a grey area?
Let’s have a deeper look at the psychology behind people going into the grey area. In the movie, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, Dan Ariely, talks about how we make the wrong decisions repeatedly in our lives. The dice experiment from the movie gave insight into how people rationalize a lot of terrible and dodgy choices that they make. Elizabeth Holmes believed she would solve a significant healthcare problem and save millions of lives. So, all of her dishonest decisions were justified.
Dan Ariely says that cheating is a cost-benefit analysis. You weigh the options out, and you decide if it is worthwhile to commit the crime or not. We have an allowance within ourselves. There is an acceptable amount of cheating that falls within a threshold that won’t damage our ability to see ourselves. Dan does another test where he pays people in tokens for giving correct answers to math problems. People will cheat and ask for a much higher number of tokens than they would if it was cash. Most people feel comfortable taking pens from an office, but they would feel uncomfortable taking a dime from a cash register.
Before the internet, everything we knew was based on what historians provided us in textbooks. You probably didn’t know this about Thomas Edison: Edison announced that he had an epiphany – his bulb was just six weeks away from working. However, he was completely lying. Edison was saying that to make money. A month later, Edison started his light company from the money he raised. His success did not hinge on what Edison learned; it hinged on creating hype and getting the public to believe in him. Was Edison a fraud that got lucky, or did he genuinely believe he was doing the right thing? Edison understood how powerful his personal brand was; however, he had a team of scientists that led the experiments, whereas Edison was the office guy.
Does transparency kill innovation or move it forward? People are moving away from the fake it until you make it mentality, and are moving toward transparency in business. It’s okay to make mistakes; it’s not okay to lie about it. At the end of the day, transparency can’t solely build a brand and a successful company. The brand needs a legitimate and trustworthy product.
If you would like to hear two industry experts further dissect this topic, head over to The Marketing Rescue Podcast