The word “marketer” leaves a bad taste in most people mouths. They think of marketing as advertising, and advertising as the epitome of capitalism. I’d have to agree with them. The marketing trade has unfortunately done more harm than good in this world in my eyes. It has drove people to be addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, and medications for made up disorders. It has been an avenue for propaganda of political, corporate, and personal gain. It is the invention of want.
To want something, to have a desire to possess. What do we possess? Products of natures or someone’s creation. How do we acquire products? With money at stores. And to get people to go to those stores and spend their hard earned money on those products, companies need the people to want them. Whew. We did it. Completed the circle. I had a marketing professor in college tell the class that if it wasn’t for marketing, people wouldn’t know what to buy. But But then it raises the question, how do marketers get people to want something? Manipulation. That’s a bummer.
Marketing at its truest sense is manipulation. To change someone’s actions through storytelling. Hence the bad taste in the mouth. So now that I know this, what can I do about it? As a marketer myself, what can I do to help my clients grow their businesses without manipulating the public? For starters, I can pick the right clients. Ones that I feel honored to help grow as I know they’re looking out for the people. There are a lot of good people in this world and many of them are entrepreneurs. So I can help those entrepreneurs reach their goals by growing and telling their story. Their authentic story. If it is authentic is it manipulation still? I think it helps diminish it but maybe not eliminate it. It’s also how we tell the story. Are targeted Facebook advertisements (how we’re telling the story) for a local cancer fundraiser (the story) still manipulation? And if it is, does it matter? Is marketing for goods that matter a bad thing? Driving awareness for a fundraiser for cancer research seems like a pretty positive thing to me. Remember, if it wasn’t for marketing people wouldn’t know what to buy. In this case, their buying cancer research, in the most literal sense. Obviously I like to use the more extreme examples to drive a point.
So, marketers invented want. It can be used to drive people to want bad things, and it can be used to drive people to want good things. Where does that leave us? How can we make a difference? To take the blame off the marketers for a minute, let’s talk about the customers. Marketers are customers too ya know. So let’s talk about the people and voting with our wallets. Be educated and choose wisely. Being aware that marketing is manipulation is depressing to hear. But now that we know it, let’s use it to our power. Look at every commercial, every attribute of a product, and every employee at a store and know that it is all meant for you to do one thing, buy their stuff. Kind of sad. But also, what a compliment right? You matter that much. It’s all for you and, well your money. Being able to now look at these factors with this new lens is quite powerful. To be able to see through the facade gives you power. Knowing that a sales tactic is a sales tactic no longer makes it manipulative.
Well, one problem lies with the consumer; to educate themselves and vote with their wallet accordingly. The main problem however, still lies with the marketers. Marketers make their decisions for a paycheck, and that paycheck is coming from stakeholders. Those stakeholders usually want to see their stake increase in price. So if the marketer sells more laundry detergent, they keep their job. What if we changed who the stakeholders were? Make it more community oriented. I guess we never hear of the amazing marketing campaign by a Co-Op.
I do think there is a way to change the game a bit though. Have marketers work for the people’s best interest. Tell the people the truth about what they should and should not buy. But then maybe that’s the fallout of capitalism. Or it’s best feature. We all can’t decide on a best so we let the market decide for us. The best however usually ends up being the best for the company and not for the people. Is there a balance? Is it the marketer’s job to make this ethical decision? Just because I am aware does that mean I have to act on that knowledge?
This is a tough topic to write about. When pulling off the lid on your own industry, you find some unpleasant surprises. Did marketers really invent want? Not really. They create it, especially these days, but wants have been around since the first need was met. I will say though, there has been a massive shift in marketing since the digital age has taken off. With more information available at our fingertips, everyone is becoming more aware. Consumers are buying smarter, and marketers are finding more valuable ways to communicate.
One thing marketers can do is make dreams come true. Bold statement, I know. But follow me. An entrepreneur has a story to share, and we share it. They’ve created something worth talking about, so we talk about it. Without marketing, you might not know what to buy, but a creator does not know how to make a living. We all want to follow our passion. We all want to have our dreams realized. Marketing is what connects the dots. It connects the creator with the people. It gives creators a platform to stand on and support their livelihood. Hopefully motivating the next generation of creators. Marketing is a tool, a very powerful one. How we use that tool is where the decisions lie. Because regardless of how it is used, it drives want. That is a power that not many other tools possess.