Sunday, August 9, 2009

Are we ‘Evil’ marketing people?

By Lee-Ann Bedford
Aqua Pebble Blog
Reprinted With Permission

I asked the Innovative Marketing, PR, Sales, Word-of-Mouth & Buzz Innovators LinkedIn group a question and received a single-worded, thought provoking response that inspired me to write this article.

Victor Brierley’s answer to my question ‘What is the next BEST thing in marketing?’ was ‘Honesty!’ This answer brought to mind the ‘evil marketing people’ phrase I had heard non-marketing ‘people’ use.

This also brought to mind a scene from the movie ‘Minority Report’ where John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is walking through a shopping mall and there are adverts all around him addressing him by name and promoting products based on what he, supposedly, would be interested in and ‘entice’ him to buy. When I watched that, the stark reality of future marketing struck me and I then developed an interest in behavioural and predictive marketing. These fields are and have been researched both quantitatively and qualitatively. I have seen interesting presentations on brain research into buying behaviour and future predictions about where business and the world as whole is moving (I hope to share some of these in future articles).

So why does the answer ‘Honesty!’ bring these to mind? I strongly believe in honesty and respect, yet as a marketing professional, I take part in marketing science that could be seen as ‘manipulative’ by those on the receiving end. Of course, we do everything to ensure it is not seen like this and portray ourselves as meeting a need. The object to meet the need ahead of our competition and make a profit for our company — except non-profit. I wonder how honourable our intentions are and can there really be honour in business and total ‘Honesty!’ in marketing. Can we risk people making their decisions without influence? I know these thoughts are controversial and I would retaliate at anyone who openly accused me of them, as I am a morally good person (or am I). At what point are we crossing over the ethical line?

Then there is the permission marketing aspect and honesty in adhering to data laws and respecting customer’s wishes. The number of out-of-the-blue emails or messages I have received that start by apologizing for the direct, personal approach… The thing is, some of them I am glad they approached me.

Then there is honesty about your product and company. Do you make them look more favourable (don’t we all wear masks?). I am not 100% certain what Victor was specifically referring to or if it was a generalised reference. It, however, was thought provoking.

Victor Brierley kindly gave me permission to refer to him in my article. You can see his website and blog here. After Victor’s comment I connected with him on LinkedIn and would love to hear him expand on his answer.

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