Marketers’ Morality!

Trevor Gallop, TMF tutor, writes……..

Marketers. We’re fantastic. We make sure people have the chance to hear about all the great stuff available to them. We make it possible for them to make choices. We entertain, educate inform and, by creating interest, excitement and desire in existing and potential customers, we keep the wheels of industry moving to meet the ever changing wants, needs and desires of the public.   We are an important part of the process of economic recovery for our country!

But are we as useful and as positive a force for good as we like to think?

Aren’t we the people who encourage the public to buy food and drinks that are bad for them – damaging their health and perhaps shortening their lives?

Don’t we create the campaigns that promote waste by incentivising people to buy more food than they need or use, through promotions and other marketing collateral designed to distort demand?

Isn’t it us who encourage people to buy affordable, ‘disposable’ fashion, created in sweat shops in less privileged parts of the world, such as Bangladesh, to replace garments that don’t need replacing, contributing to a throw-away society, mindlessly consuming resources?

And should we really be seducing people to desire cars that can attain speeds of 150 plus miles per hour, in a country with a speed limit of 70mph, by using marketing to build a peripheral story around the brand based on image, prestige and an aspirational life style that has nothing to do with getting from A to B?

Where am I going with this? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? My question is, simply, is there a morality to marketing that we don’t acknowledge as fully as we should in our text books and marketing courses, and, dare I say it, in our marketing departments?

Pay day loan companies like, for example, Wonga, had people doing their marketing for them. They targeted a particular marketing segment with a suite of products which were regarded by many as not offering the best solution to a number of their customers’ needs.    And, of course, someone, somewhere, once upon a time, was doing the marketing for PPI and Endowment Mortgage products.

Someone, somewhere, is behind the TV advertisements designed to foster pester power from children to buy toys that won’t meet their expectations.   The aeroplane that won’t fly…. The space monster that won’t walk and fire laser fuelled bolts of molten lava and the Royal Fairy Princess doll that won’t transport little Amelia into an enchanting wonderland of educational, imaginative play, enhanced by a range of changes of outfits, accessories and hairstyles…

So, my question is, as a profession and as a discipline, do we always think enough about what we are really doing as marketers, why we are doing it and what the consequences for customers may be.

Many times, probably most times, what we do is of unquestionable value. It meets a legitimate need and delivers qualitative and tangible benefits.   But Marketing is probably the nearest thing our civilisation has to genuine social engineering. Marketing does change tastes, attitudes, behaviours, lifestyles…..

The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s definition of marketing is:

‘Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.’ (CIM)

Did you notice?

Nothing about ethics, morality or Corporate Social Responsibility there…..

Perhaps, as Marketers, we should be thinking a bit more carefully about how we, personally play our part. What do you think?


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About the Author

Morag Foudy

Morag Foudy

Morag, who has worked for TMF in a number of roles since 2004, is our Head of Professional Courses. Her focus is on new product development, such as the course design for the new CIM qualifications, as well as communications for all our different audiences.

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