During marketing today, a class mate asked a question. A great question in many respects.
As follows paraphrased, “How can someone step outside their personal beliefs and still do their job regardless of the fact that it obviously goes against their philosophies?”
To which I rephrase the question, “Are we responsible for our employment? Are we responsible for what we market?”
The answer, of course, is yes.
At the heart of the question is ethics. What is ethical in marketing products and services? Marketing works well when it’s done well. So regardless of the product, a good marketer can make it sell or be viewed in a specific light that will help it to spread. That’s what we do. And those good ones out there know what they can do, they understand that these abilities they’ve worked at for so long have an incredible power to alter perspectives and make serious change palpable.
There are some distinguishing factors for these humans as well. All of these people acknowledge that what they do is powerful and means a lot for organizations. That’s why we put it on our resumes as well as why large organizations pay up. Yet many marketers choose to not be accountable for what they market. They view themselves as a mere cog in a machine crafted toward an end. To them, it’s no concern as to whether or not that machine has an ethical production or not. To them, selling cigarettes is the same as selling milk. It’s a job. It’s a living. Even if it’s a killing.
We are far too educated for that type of whimsical nonchalance. Just as politicians should be aware and value the fact that their opinions and efforts shape lives, marketers must also acknowledge that what they choose to sell, how they choose to sell are all taking effect on people every day. There is no gray area here. Your choices in marketing anything are your own.
Of course, this isn’t merely regulated to those things you are paid to market (although that’s the excuse people use to remain ignorant of their impact). This is a staple of everything you choose to market. If you advocate Christianity, Buddhism, Hindu, Atheism or any other religion, you must fully comprehend the fact that it may well get someone converted. If you tell me to buy a stock, you had better know that there’s a possibility I just may do it and prepare for the repercussions. If you live and die by Krispy Kremes and tell everyone, chances are that their consumption of glazed donuts will take an uptick, at least temporarily. You have that power. The reason we don’t think in this manner is because marketing is so often viewed as a corporate action. We gave it a sophisticated sounding name. Corporations have the ability to generate momentum toward implicit causes much faster because of their budgets and expertise, but you can have similar impacts using grassroots tactics.
Either way, you are marketing something and you need to understand the ramifications. You also have to stand behind your decisions; make no mistake, they are your own.