The spawn of the devil? Moi?
Somebody recently sent me a clip of a Bill Hicks sketch in which he invited marketing people to go kill themselves. It is apparently quite a famous routine from the celebrated late comedian in which he delivers a scathing attack on all employed in the field of marketing. I am told it’s very funny; presumably for those not employed in marketing. I do work in marketing and, to be honest, I didn’t really see the funny side (not surprisingly) but the good news is it didn’t prompt me to go do myself in either. Good news for me but possibly not for Mr Hicks. Sorry about that Bill.
The truth is that marketing has a bad name to some. Marketing people are blamed for many of the woes of this world – mass consumerism, intrusive social media, the addiction to all things online, obesity, Justin Bieber etc. I understand the argument and some mass marketing is conducted with all focus on selling and none on ethics. I do get that. But can we really position marketers as public enemy number 1?
The clip was sent to me because this person thought I would find it funny and not because of my personal influence on the buying decisions of the global market. Working exclusively with small businesses in West Yorkshire, it’s fairly safe to say the ‘evil’ marketing work I do does not encourage mass consumerism, force children to eat burgers or create a nation of gamblers or drinkers and I am not responsible for Justin Bieber but I do present my clients in as attractive a way as possible to their target market and at the end of the day my remit is to help them sell more.
Marketers have feelings too
Marketers help companies to be successful, that’s what we are paid to do. Companies who are successful employ people, buy things from other companies, import, export and invest. These things keep the economy buoyant and we don’t have to look too far back to see what happens when companies fail to be successful; it impacts on employment and investment and eventually the economy collapses. Consider, is it important that people drink Coca Cola? No. Is it important that 4000 people in the UK have a job because of the Coca Cola organisation? Yes. A slightly simplistic view but hopefully you see what I mean.
That said, as marketers, we have to adopt something of an ethical code within that; we should always work for clients whose activities we feel comfortable with and who we believe in; we should always conduct marketing activities that are honest and appropriate and we should be targeted and respectful. I can honestly say that I believe in all the clients that I work with. I believe that they are good at what they do and that they offer a great product or service to their customers. I’m happy to help them sell more and don’t feel that I am selling my soul in doing so.
Give me something to believe in
Occasionally however, clients come along who offer that little bit more to feel good about. They tick all the boxes mentioned above but they go further; they impact on something important and they have the potential to make a difference. One such client has come along recently for me that does all of that. MonitorGo is a start up company that has created a new kind of personal alarm device for the elderly. This device is a much improved alternative to the standard pendant alarms many older, vulnerable people use and offers a range of solutions to the shortcomings of this, now outdated, system. I was approached about working with this company in the early stages of product development by founder Stephen Bradbury. I was keen to do so, not just because the product has the potential to have a big impact on the lifestyle and independence of the elderly, but because of Stephen’s passion and his motivation for devising and developing the device: his own elderly relatives who had been affected by frailty and Alzheimer’s Disease in old age and had been failed by the solutions available (see here for further details).
Stand up and be counted
Bill Hicks is no longer with us but I wonder if he properly thought his argument through? Are we really Satan’s spawn and the ruiners of all things good? I may be biased, but I don’t think so. To all those who are critical of marketing let me nail my colours to the mast: I DO NOT FEEL ASHAMED TO BE A MARKETER, IN FACT I FEEL PROUD TO BE ONE.