We live in a world which is full of fraudulent and speculative intentions. Intentions so strong that they reach absolutely all aspects of our life and have further implications on business. Bit outdated Argeta’s  (27th of March 2013)”Fake mums” campaign is still very actual and very representative in this category, unfortunately. A lesson to be learned (subsection: Ethics in Marketing) and told to the upcoming generations how insufficient care can lead to devastating result.

Ethics in Marketing

What are the facts and background story behind “Fake mums” campaign?

Back in 2013, well-known, renowned and trusted brand Argeta launched campaign “Odobrile mame” (Picked by mums).  The campaign itself was fully intended to engage mums, with their emotional touch and testimonials. They were supposed to soar demand for Argeta pasty beside all, and those of them lucky enough will get dedicated tour through Argeta’s facilities. Presumed aim was to promote Argeta as a super quality pasty brand. However, for unknown reasons Argeta’a marketers decided to go for fake testimonials. Fake pictures (available to purchase for no price) and personas/mums behind those. Tactic that proved to be disastrous mistake.

The case has been discovered and reported by culinary blog Vitki Gurman . For the sake of ethics in marketing and general business ethics, we frankly show appreciation of what they did. Bravo. This triggered all and out “anti-Argeta” reflex and sentiment, mainly on social networks. Almost all regional portals and bloggers have been reporting on this. Partial list of references: index.hrvečernji.hr; media-marketing.com, informer.rs; pressonline.rs; alo.rs; telegraf.rs; 6yka.com; marketingitd.com; draganvaragic.com; rtv.rs; naslovi.net; net.hr; abc.ba; bankar.me; zdravljeipriroda.com; 021.rs etc.

Of course, we have had an sketchy official PR’s show up with this statement:

Not even a single detail in this campaign has been planned in order to fraud our customers, whose satisfaction is our top and most important goal.

Or the following one:

We all would like to travel back in time and try to avoid the mistake. We are now giving our best to solve the ongoing issue and come out of this stronger and wiser.

What went wrong after all?

The issue is rather complex, therefore I will approach the problem from few interrelated standpoints. Those are: PR-communication, marketing and ethical.

  1. PR-Communication standpoint

Problem number one: stubborn insistence on one-way communication. Still acute issue, but after the crisis literally broke out PR department was on their knees with no idea how to act. To prove this, very low response rate on Facebook and Twitter profiles has been recorded. Moreover, they could call in the real mums which were in competition to prove the campaign was real. They could ask all those bloggers that were spreading negative buzz to spread the real communication’s aims of the campaign. They could – but they didn’t. 

      2. Marketing standpoint

Problem number two: poor planning and even worse executing of the campaign. To be totally honest, I do not understand why Argeta did not outsource this whole campaign. In house business is good, but it is provable not necessary so. There are whole bunch of creative agencies who can deliver an outstanding campaigns (e.g. Applause for Kriva Reka). We all know resource are scarce by default, but managers must balance between reputation,  current situation and shorfall of resources. This triangle’s balance shifts in accordance with business goals at a given moment.

      3. Ethical standpoint

Problem number three: fraudulence feeling and negative perception of a brand. This one is far the greatest and most adverse influence in a long run. The magical word of mouth marketing skyrockets. Primarily for two reasons: 1. once the customer feel he/she has been subject to fraud (doesn’t have to be a provable one) it will “spread the vibe” in negative connotation around. Secondly, the intention to help the “undecided” ones is going to trigger blast of emotions (under umbrella of virality). In this case, we do not even have a solid try to stop this word of mouth. In closing, we are all people. Even the companies are comprised of individuals who firmly believes in some values (e.g. ethics…). The Value that has been greatly overran by Argeta in this case.

Conclusion: lessons to be learned.

  1. Companies must ensure (two way) communication with their customers (not applicable for this case);
  2. Neglecting clients/customers/public is not an option (very much applicable for this case);
  3. Crisis PR scenarios are must (not applicable for this case);
  4. Outsourcing marketing and communications activities as an possibility (not applicable for this case);
  5. Importance of business ethics (not applicable in this case);
  6. We live in internet age (read: availability of information), meaning that you must not play around (fully neglected by Argeta in this case) etc.

For the sake of length of this article I decided to put it within decent margins so it is easily readable and understandable. I mainly focused the story on ethics in marketing, actually lack of it. I could go and write double digit number of A4 pages with list of fails and full elaboration of those.

What do you have to say on all this?

In closing, I must express my gratitude to Maja Petrović from VitkiGurman.com.

Stay tuned for more analysis and great stories.
BalkanMarketingStories Crew