Marketers face this dilemma every day. They must push some boundaries past the point of pain in order to get the jump and be competitive. At the same time, they must clearly stay within constraints such as ethics and regulatory requirements in order to retain integrity, reputation and a clean record.
The two should balance: think ambitiously; compete responsibly.
Bad things happen when they don’t. Bubbles form. Temptations rise. And as they do, the urge to scuff the chalkmarks increases. The GFC is the poignant repercussive example of what happens when borders get realigned: when organisations reset their ethical boundaries and then use those reframed parameters as the basis for more ambitious (read: morally dubious) behaviours that they rationalise as necessary, even “responsible” in order to remain competitive.
It’s comfortable for most marketers to forge ways to profitably pursue their purpose because the money triumphs and the purpose justifies. You can make target and validate getting there as having done something good in the process. It’s a much greater challenge for brands to work through how they will purposefully pursue their profit – because then, the behaviours are front and centre and the profits are the validation that customers support and reward you for choosing to behave that way.