The Morality of Reputation and the Judgment of Others

Dozens of marketing types and hundreds of ways of generating traffic. In affiliate, publishers have desired codes for two reasons; to show their users useful and engaging content, or to influence the last-click CPA (cost per action) model which ultimately provides the final incentive and entices the consumer to purchase. In this crusade some publishers have, in the past, shared content that wasn’t ‘intended’ for them. Marketing campaigns or codes created by advertisers for one channel or partner that have been floated around the web and set free, seemingly for general advertising use by any partner. Publishers have also advertised brands with codes in a ‘bargain’ manner not always sympathetic to the impact it can have on an advertiser’s brand.
Publishers have typically been the ones who have shouldered most of the ‘blame’ in affiliate marketing for the negative reputation that codes often have. I, for one, think this is unfortunate. As the ones that are taking on the biggest financial risk in the traditional affiliate CPA model publishers are challenged in their very nature to find innovative and resourceful ways to generate and distribute traffic. Aren’t they just using what resources they can to do this?
I recently ran an audit of 100 UK websites, these were all well-known brands operating in retail and travel. Every one of these sites had a code box visible at the check-out stage, regardless of which marketing route I had come through or whether I have been a customer of theirs in the past. This code box was seemingly displayed regardless of whether the brand frequently, or ever, distributes codes. Undeniably, advertisers are perpetuating the browsing behaviour we see when consumers actively engage in parallel code searching during the checkout process. Some of these advertisers have actively and publicly said that discounting through codes is the nadir of what they stand for, or how they want their brand to be perceived.
The ultimate goal for advertisers and publishers, surely the lowly consumer cannot be blamed for anything! And I actually think this is true. Changing people’s behaviour to online consumption and e-commerce isn’t something that the average brand is able to alter. Just because a brand says it doesn’t discount using codes doesn’t mean consumers don’t search for coupons. Take, for example John Lewis. It doesn’t distribute codes (but, coincidently they do have a code box on their checkout page). However, search volume for the term ‘John Lewis Discount Code’ still continues to be popular:
So the problem, though perhaps not the blame, resides with consumer behaviour exacerbated by the norm of online shopping, coupled with advertisers who continue to lead consumers into thinking that a discount is going to be available because of the presence of the code box.

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