Marketers and brand developers are often cited as “selling things” and creating demand to place products in consumers’ hands when they do not necessarily need it. Consumerism in today’s society is incredibly high in affluent societies and there is no longer a clear distinction between a want and a need. In fact, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has jokingly been redesigned and shared widely on social media platforms to cite WIFI as a necessary function before any other human need.
Have marketers done such a good job in creating demand for internet connectivity that WIFI is more important than Food and Shelter?
The question that begs answering then, is have marketers in fact done such a great job in getting people to buy stuff that the deeper meaning in all of this is negated? Is it really about rands and dollars in profit and sales? What about the impact all of this has on human beings (not human wantings) in terms of human consciousness, on civilisation, on human values, on caring for the planet and protecting our environment?
Is Marketing Bad?
Marketing in and of itself is not bad. It’s a necessary tool, which can be used with responsibility or not. If used well, it can get medication into the hands of the unhealthy, saving lives. It can get food into the hands of the poor, saving communities. It can get knowledge to those who need the education to make better choices, allowing greater freedom. Marketing, when used well, can be very powerful.
But, conversely, marketing can also trick consumers into believing untruths and half truths. Messaging can be deceptive, and play into human neuroses that buying a particular product or brand can make the reader have a better life – think of the big screen smoking TV commercials so well known in the 1980s – (eg. the Peter Styvesant Ad 1980).
The question to ask – Is it really Win-Win?
The question that should be placed ahead of each new product launched, each new marketing campaign run and each promotion done, should be “How does this benefit the consumer in a meaningful way?” If there is any doubt that the message being sent undermines someone or is a sale based on driving profits more than consumer value, the motive should be questioned. Is the short term gain in this really worth the long term loss. Because consumers will always and ultimately eventually want what it good for their personal growth and something that helps better their families and communities.
If there is any WIN-LOSE situation, whether short term or long term, the business should be reassessed.
Marketing for Good
You may be thinking, this is all very well and good, but not realistic. The world turns on profits not on goodwill. And this is where I challenge you.
Why should it continue to be this way? If as business people, consumers, shoppers, human beings with hearts and souls, we want change, we should be the custodians to this change.
The choice and responsibility lies with us. In each decision, in each brand, in each marketing campaign, we have a choice of how we communicate and what we do. Let’s make it good. Let’s make it better.