The Dark Side of the Force
Is marketing evil?
Over the weekend I read an article by Michael Serazio about "Why Marketing has become like Guerrilla Warfare" In the article he talks about how marketing has become more covert and underground. He argues that the line between content and advertisement has been blurred - it is no longer separate (TV Show vs. TV Ad)
He talks about the marketing warfare metaphor "conducting marketing campaigns". I have to take pause, as this is a very dangerous argument. I talked about this linguistic phenomenon where certain metaphors are built into languages in a previous blog post. In my argument I made a connection between the English of "time being money" (spend time, waste time, buy time) and American culture. I however understood the limitations of my argument. The marketing as warfare linguistic metaphor argument raises many questions: Is this metaphor only built into English? Was this metaphor created before guerrilla style tactics existed? Is this metaphor more a symptom of the business as warfare metaphor in English - with marketing being one department?
Serazio also bemoans the ever popular online content curation platforms such as huffpost. Their popularity has come at the cost of the "more trustworthy" hard copy resources, he gives the example of Newsweek going out of business.
This article left me wondering - is marketing evil? Is guerrilla marketing evil?
Marketing is Inherently Empty
I think that Serazio makes a couple good points. Marketing has changed - become covert, clever, gone underground. The line between advertisement and content has indeed blurred - look at the new "sponsored" Facebook posts that show up in your newsfeed. I know that the word "evil" needless boils down or simplifies Serazio's argument - however is this method inherently evil?
At the end of the day, marketing is inherently nothing, zilch, goose eggs. Marketing is simply a vehicle that assumes the traits the the driver, nothing more. It is a medium of communication.
Here is a great example of how the nature of marketing depends on its subject.
Organ Donation: Ogilvy Brazil
Problem : Thousands die each year in need of an organ transplant
Behavioral Resource : Brazilian sports fans are known the world over for their fanaticism, dedication and craziness
Solution: Utilize this natural resource to re-ochestrate the discussion on organ donation
Tactics: Guerilla marketing
Outcome: Higher donation rates
Watch the video.
This campaign is amazing and really demonstrates the potential of marketing - especially in achieving altruistic goals. While not all marketing is so wholesome in the sense that it touches such humanitarian goals, it shows that marketing is inherently empty. However is marketing ethically required to be overt, to let you know of it's existence? I think not. Sometimes in order for marketing to be effective it needs to blur the lines and sneak up on you - it just shouldn't lie to you in the process.
Marketers are in the business of adding value to life, marketing is not about deceiving or hiding the truth - such marketing is unethical. A good ad should not tell you lies and state facts that are otherwise blurred or untrue. Marketing is in the business of finding that little bit of perceived value hiding under your nose and taking the fullest advantage of it.
We would find that in a world without marketers we would all have the same goods, the same relationships and the same amount of money - but we would all be a little bit poorer. True marketing is not black magic - it is a little extra service that benefits us all.