Responsibility in Marketing

Seth Godin writes books on marketing ethics, like All Marketers Are Liars. His new post on Responsibility dovetails nicely with what I wrote last week about advertising and the 10th Commandment.

Advertising and promotion and lobbying cost money. And organizations pay for it because, by and large, it works. Not all the time, and rarely as big as people hope, but sure, you can influence the public by spending money.

Which leads to the key question: are you responsible for what you market?

Some people will tell you that the market decides. They’ll remind you that most consumers are adults, spending their own resources and doing it freely. That people have a right to buy what they want, even if what they want isn’t good for them (right now, or in the long run). That’s what living in a free country is all about, apparently. Buy what you want.

But wait.

I thought we agreed that marketing works.

If marketing works, it means that free choice isn’t quite so free. It means that marketers get to influence and amplify desires. The number of SUVs sold in the United States is a bazillion times bigger than it was in 1962. Is that because people suddenly want them, or is it because car marketers built them and marketed them?

Cigarette consumption is way down. Is that because people suddenly don’t want them any more, or is it because advertising opportunities are limited?

HT: Chuck Warnock

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