Published: October 2nd, 2015
When I was first getting into marketing, it seemed like a very exciting part of business. While I couldn’t stand accounting and finance, and management looked to me like something you learned about as you worked, marketing seemed to hold a glimmer of creative hope in an otherwise bleak and beige corporate world.
However, I disagree with some of the practices we’ve maintained as an industry, like clickbait or freebooting. They might not technically be wrong, but I do see a discrepancy. I see a conflict between who I am as a buyer of goods and services, and as a marketer of goods and services. How do we reconcile the fun and useful aspects of marketing with its possibly ugly parts? Well, I think we need to respect the consumer while exercising great marketing tactics.
The conflict I see is between what I prefer as a consumer rather than a marketer. To list a few examples, I don’t like receiving spam, I don’t like it when my favorite creators (in music, YouTube, or otherwise) sell out, and I don’t like that a company like Walmart or Target can predict what I will want to buy based on a library of information it keeps on me. The things I’m complaining about may not be right or wrong in themselves, but I don’t like them. As a marketer, though, they make perfect sense. What’s spam to one person might be a long-awaited newsletter to another. A paid influencer naturally gets the word out. Keeping track of buying habits from a super-store lets them market products directly to their target audience. Why would we go about it any other way?
Well, if we don’t take into account how we feel about consuming marketing content as regular people, we risk planning marketing campaigns hypocritically. How can I flood the inboxes of thousands of people with email I wouldn’t want to receive myself, tamper with the trust fans have placed in a certain artist, or invade the privacy of others while trying to keep my own? If we’re fine with receiving what we make, then there isn’t an issue, but what if we don’t approve of it as consumers? What these three examples have in common is that they can be considered affronts against the integrity of someone. Spam disrespects the recipients, selling out threatens the credibility of the artist or creator as someone genuine, and analyzing data on my purchases invades my privacy. If I want to be respected while disrespecting the people I’m marketing to, I think I’d be a hypocrite. Now, this issue may not be the case for everyone, and even to those from whom it applies, it may only be a small problem. The trouble remains, however. What do we do about these ethical lapses?
Market unto others as you yourself would like to be marketed to. This is not a complete solution in the slightest, but I think it’s the beginning of it. The fact of the matter is, there’s a lot better marketing we could be doing if we decided to be a little less moral, like withholding information from a customer in order to close a sale, or marketing certain products to children without their parents permission. We each have to draw a line in the sand for the projects we have a say in and make sure we don’t cross that boundary into being annoying or disappointing. If we approach marketing from the perspective of the end receiver, we should account for many of these issues.
This is all very wishful thinking, though. What do you think? Do you agree completely? Do you think I’m wrong in every single thing I wrote? Somewhere in between? Share your thoughts in the comments below!