I want to share with you an example of the utter lack of Internet marketing ethics and integrity that I encountered in the past week. In a certain info product niche (that shall remain nameless for now), respected Guru A passed away this month. This is someone who spent many decades teaching his particular expertise and is well-known in the industry.
Now the thing that normal people would do is offer condolences to family and business partners of Guru A. That’s what people who aren’t sociopaths or psychopaths do when a peer dies. But apparently that was simply too much to ask of certain gurus within the same field. After all, there was money to be made on the Internet by kicking the corpse.
Yes, we’re talking pay-per-click (PPC) ads that started running using the name of Guru A to drive traffic to the sites of competitors Guru B and Guru C even though Guru A’s business still existed despite his recent death. The typical reader of the PPC ads would mistakenly think they were for Guru A’s products.
Now what was the response of Gurus B and C when it was brought to their attention that (1) they were violating a federally registered trademark owned by Guru A’s business; and (2) misusing the name of a dead person to make money when the body isn’t cold yet.
Guru B at first attacked the messenger for delivering the message, denying the existence of the PPC ads run for his business using Guru A’s name. Guru B then claimed he had nothing to do with it even after being presented with a copy of one of the ads. As part of this, Guru B claimed it was an affiliate promoting for him, denied responsibility for an affiliate’s misconduct, wouldn’t disclose the affiliate’s identity, and only agreed to take any action when he was facing litigation.
In contrast, Guru C took down the ads when requested. Whether motivated by shame or simply acknowledging what it would do to his public image if it became known what he was doing, at least Guru C had the common sense utterly lacking in Guru B to do the right thing after the fact.
As for Gurus B and C, I’ll be watching their conduct to see if they stray again. If they do, they’ll be tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. And that’s not counting what the legal system will do to them. Early retirement will become the greener pasture.
Some people wonder why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on deceptive Internet marketing and sales practices. My take on it is that there are amoral gurus who will take advantage of anyone (including the dead) to make a fast buck online. If info product marketers do not develop their own rules of professional conduct and police themselves, the government is going to step in with rules no one likes and do it for them.
Religious or not, let’s at least start with an Internet Marketing Golden Rule: Treat Others How You Want To Be Treated.