Ethics in marketing? Yes. Marketing needs ethics, too. After all, many people say “marketing” like it’s a four-letter word. Senior Staff Instructor at LinkedIn Learning, Morten Rand-Hendriksen joins us this week on WPblab to talk about ethics in marketing. With a passion for learning new things (including ballroom dancing with his wife), philosophy, and accessibility, Morten is well-known as an advocate for all things forward-facing in tech but realizes the ethics implications. Join us this week for the live chat to ask Morten your questions.

Twitter: @mor10

LinkedIn Learning &

Studied Philosophy at University

Ethics 101 (definition) … there are two terms you hear all the time – ethics & morals – two different aspects of the same thing (two sides of the same coin)

Morals – internalized understanding of what is right and wrong

Ethics – a human definition of systems that you use to define what is right and wrong

If you look at Ethical Theory, you are looking at Moral Traditions – confusingly!

There is often a disconnect in understanding the terminology between the two

“Cryptomining is a good example of why the web design industry needs ethics”

Ethics (as defined by Moren) – the rules that we create to allow us to judge individual actions and see if they are justifiable in a moral context

“Why don’t people in the WordPress community copy each others themes and release them in a different name” – there’s nothing that explicitly prevents it, but there are ethics that keep them from doing so

Kant’s Categorical Imperative (wikipedia) – act as if you want your act to be a universal law – this is how people should always behave

We need ethics in marketing – as you release this thing into the world, how do you want it to be handled

There’s a common misunderstanding that ethics provides you a list of dos and don’ts – it doesn’t – that is dogmatic moralism. Rather, ethics give you the tools to at least attempt to think through the decisions you make, before you turn those decisions to action (and see what the consequences might be)

Example: There is code that you can currently install on your site that runs crypto mining processes on the computers of everyone who visits your site – generates money and sends it back to the owner of the site

Consequentialism – what are the consequences of your actions and do those consequences improve the common good? It is okay if some people are disadvantaged as long as the large majority are advantaged.

In the case of the Crypto code – everyone is disadvantaged but the website owner, so Consequentialism would say – don’t do this!

Duty ethics – you have to perform acts in a way that you would want every other person to behave in that same situation, not because you have to, but because you actually believe that’s how it should be done

You have a duty of care to everyone who interacts with your website – unless you explicitly state that you are doing this, you are failing your visitors

Virtue Ethics – what kind of person do you become by performing the act. This is the oldest of these theories.  The idea is that a human can only become virtuous by aspiring to a set of virtues.

Is this the type of person that I want to be?  That I would want everyone else to be?

Capability Approach – the morality of an act has to be judged on what capabilities it grants the person it is acted upon. Does it improve their capabilities?

Start thinking about how what we are doing effects the ends user. What kind of future am I building for the people who are using this site?

A tiny toolkit to help you answer your own questions!

  1. What kind of world am I building for the end user?
  2. Who do I become by doing this?
  3. Do I want every other person to do this in the same circumstance?
  4. Am I increasing the overall utility for everyone? (everyone might be end user)

What is the value of getting an influencer to say something about your product?

You think they have more authority (there is value / money in that)
It’s because people innately believe what they say – even if not true – and respond to that influence
If you “ghost write” a review and make it seem as if it’s written entirely from the influencer, then the whole trust equation falls apart – your duty of care (ethically) would require you to disclose that information to your audience

The “Milli Vanilli” effect

100% GPL – if you aren’t 100% compliant, you can’t sponsor a WordCamp – how do ethics apply here

Someone has to make a decision about who is affected and who is not, it can become a very subjective decision. In WordPress, that person is often Matt Mullenweg – we are granting him license to do this by following along

The WordPress community largely rises and falls based on whether people are willing to buy into the importance and need of GPL

Ethics is complicated – every single person who is in the conversation will have a different viewpoint – if it’s a good ethical conversation, you touch on all the pain points enough that people are satisfied and everything has been accounted for

If we start over – what capabilities should we grant the end user and how do those capabilities help them improve their lives. One of the big values is that WordPress is free and (relatively) safe to use … you can formulate some overall idea.  We are granting the capability to publish to the internet anyone who has access to any internet connection

There is a constant battle between wanting to be the type of person who creates things for the WordPress community to freely use (open source) and also needing to be able to provide an income for yourself and your family – what is our ethical responsibility to ourselves and the end user?

Bridget: If you’re going to build a product and you decide to start with those 4 ‘toolkit’ questions as part of your branding standards, then you would already be about 70% of the way there

We are building a world for our end users – what kind of world do we want to build for them? What are the consequences of our choices? Ethics should not be a wet blanket on our creativity, it should be a hearth that keeps all that creativity from ‘burning down the house’

What did we do wrong here? How did we end up in the place? What can we do to keep it from happening again?

Tools of the Week


Jason: still using SetApp – but wishes it had Magnet (allows you to move items around on the screen to the edges and makes the windows snap)

Morten: Pocket – save articles to read later – strips out all the ads and just gives you the text – it can also read it back to you!  Even works with the Kobo e-Reader!!

Suggested reading for everyone: Virtual Reality As Possibility Space

Let us know who helped us out with the show notes (we’ll link to you)

  • Cheryl LaPrade @yaycheryl
  • Sherie LaPrade @heysherie
  • James Tryon @jamestryon (but not enough for a true bi-line)
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