Friday, September 15, 2006

Marketing Morality

I went to a small state school that is regularly recognized for being one of the best buys in American secondary education.
I had a marketing professor for a couple of classes that always questioned the morality of what we would be willing to market. It was an interesting thought experiment, and at that time in my life I was completely open to the idea of marketing any product or service, a sort of laissez faire approach to marketing, where the marketer couldn’t be held responsible for what the market wants to buy. The prime example he used were "Serial Killer Trading Cards," and I argued that while they may be vile, it is not my job to cast judgement on what people want to buy, if I am paid to sell them, then I should do my best to sell them.

Seth Godin flips that on it’s ear in this post, arguing that if you are a really good marketer, or even a great one, then you have to accept the responsibility that your efforts actually result in an increase in sales of a particular good or service and therefore you must be accountable for what you market.

I have to agree. I have held one position that I didn’t feel comfortable selling the service I was paid to sell. Granted, I wasn’t making the marketing decisions for the entire company---I was simply ONE representative selling as much of the service as possible to as many people as possible, but I knew that I was responsible for what I was selling and I didn’t like it—so I left.

I wonder if I should have stayed, I might have made a lot of money (my boss was making 6 figures), might have been promoted up the sales force by now and possibly learned to rationalize away my doubts about the service, but I think I made the right decision.


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