All virtues have a vice flip side. Thrift can turn to greed. Self respect can turn to pride. Righteous anger can turn to wrath. And so it is with marketing.

Marketing is meant influence behavior, to change people. Through empathy, generosity and vulnerability, trust in the marketer grows and the student-customers can be influenced to change for the better. Note that the techniques used by the ethical marketer are the same qualities that make and deepen friendships.

That trust is critical and it can be lost in the blink of an eye.

Here is a personal example of lost trust, and yes, I am calling this company out.

Seeking some information about available mortgages, I made the mistake of going to the Lending Tree website.

I am sure you have seen Lending Tree’s empathetic and humorous ads on television. The adorable green muppet counsels his slightly dim roommate (?) to go to Lending Tree rather than grovel at the bank. They are well done ads with an empowering message, and they built my trust over time.

Online, the muppet was there, encouraging me to enter my email and phone number, which I did.

To say that I got spammed would be a wild understatement.

I got hounded by mortgage reps for almost two weeks, and it started seconds after I gave up my information. Hundreds of robo-calls and clearly automated emails (that increased in scripted urgency) flooded my cell phone and inbox. Within hours I was cursing Lending Tree. Trust lost, never to be regained.

It is a shame, because I am sure that gaining that trust was really expensive.