Working for a few years in the non-profit sector has revealed the bad reputation of marketing to me:
Oh, you’re a marketeer, that’s selling two tubes of toothpaste for the price of one, hahahá!
Mahhhketing, that’s how you convince people to buy things they don’t need, right?
But marketing is no more than a means to an end, a tool to bring about change in an effective way. That makes it just as good or bad as the goal it serves.
Using marketing techniques to willingly bring xenofobe people to power isn’t my piece of cake, but yes, it has happened.
The horrors of marketing
To some extent marketing has earned its horrible reputation allright. When the purpose of adding value diminishes to a mere means to generate profit. When politics are no longer driven by convictions, and the will to power prevails. Then marketing becomes mere manipulation.
Marketing matured in an America where masses were lured into consumption to keep the economic engine going. Europe privatized essential public services, thus allowing revenue seekers to sacrifice quality for profits. Big data and fake news induce people to vote against their interests, and marketeers create common enemies as a vehicle to let power hungry candidates win votes in elections.
I have been on the brink of hating marketing myself…
Don’t shoot the messenger
But that is too easy. A goal that sucks, can be served in a brilliant way. A political party that I don’t support has the best campaign in my country, with crisp messages – practicing what they preach. I just hope it is not because they have expensive connections with the best agencies.
Some people think that only manipulation needs marketing, and worthwhile causes sell themselves. I don’t buy that.
The baby and the bathwater
Let’s not condemn marketing, and throw away this lovely baby with the bathwater. I think that not taking the trouble of finding out what your audience wants, and just blurting out a message is plain arrogance. No matter how good your intentions. It is what churches and NGO’s did in the past: we-know-it-all preaching to ignorant beneficiaries. Sending without receiving. This is no way to take people serious. And with the exception of a lucky shot, it is highly ineffective in promoting the behavior you want.
Good causes, bad results
I see governments wasting their effort on campaigns to inform the general public about a healthy lifestyle, yet at the same time increasing VAT on healthy food – when we know food choice is a matter not of knowledge but of impulse on the spot.
I see NGO’s ignoring the fact that consumers living in poverty let status prevail above their health (like everyone else across the globe), when using status as a trigger could bring about positive change.
I hear sales-pitches boring the shit out of potential institutional or business customers, when questioning them about what they want – and emphasizing added value exactly at that point, would have done the job.
Honest marketing stories
Marketing means assessing the needs of your target groups – customers, civilians, or users. It means using scientific evidence on effective interventions. It means addressing your audience in an engaging way. Only then your message will resonate.
I want to use the marketing expertise that I acquired while working in highly competitive environments, for worthwhile causes.