First: props to Rand Fishkin’s piece on the SparkToro blog, which we’re riffing upon here. That dude has a really good batting average with his blog posts.
We openly identify as marketers in theCLIKK, keywords in theCLIKK. Y’all are here for it, but a lot of people outside this newsletter frankly aren’t. You might know the feeling from relatives asking you (to explain) what you do.
Most of the public thinks “marketers” belong in the same group as shady salesmen and people twirling pointy signs on the side of the road. That’s not just anecdotal; up-to-date survey data from Gallup tells us that only 10% of people have a high or very high opinion of advertisers’ (often synonymous with marketers’) ethics, while 43% have a low or very low opinion.
That’s about on par with Car Salespeople and Members of Congress. 😬
So let’s address two nagging questions here…
😈 Could marketing actually be evil?
As with most areas of life, the Good or Evil of marketing (or which shade of gray) is largely dependent upon two sets of questions:
⛳️ ENDS: Are the end goals of your marketing ethically good things? Put another way: is the thing you’re selling actually good? Is it something that improves the world for people other than the company’s owners?
🏌️ MEANS: Whatever you’re selling, are you interacting with people in ethical ways? Are you presenting your offer in good faith, with honesty and transparency? Or are you ultimately deceiving people to some degree?
As Rand puts it: “Marketing isn’t inherently good or evil, effective or ineffective. It is, like so many things in this world, what we make of it.”
🤔 Regardless, why do people seem to think it is?
Several overlapping reasons:
1️⃣ Marketing is inherently manipulative. We mean this in a matter-of-fact way: marketing attempts to influence the behavior of others, and it would not be marketing otherwise. But as much to the point: the scary, 1984-ish connotation of the word ‘manipulate’ is exactly how a lot of the public imagines marketing goals. (Never mind that, by the matter-of-fact definition, virtually all professions try to manipulate.)
2️⃣ We tend to notice (and remember) the bad marketing, not the good marketing. We notice the things that annoy us, obstruct us, offend us… and worst of all, the things designed to scam us. A small minority of marketers use their powers to rip people off, so the public is distrustful of marketers everywhere. We remember that kind of “marketing” for life. But we don’t remember good marketing because…
3️⃣ Good marketing doesn’t call attention to what it is. In other words, good marketing doesn’t seem like marketing; it just seems like one interesting thing after another (a tweet, a blog post, a presentation, a product page, etc.). People don’t remember good marketing. They remember a good experience as the customer.
So where does that leave you? What do you do with marketing’s bad rap and your involvement in it?
Rand himself says this “might be the strangest advice” he’s given publicly—but his advice is to ignore it. The reality is that businesses AND people need marketers, so it’s a pretty good place to be professionally.
As for those ethical problems… just don’t be one of them. 😉