Is marketing evil? (A reply)

24Feb09

In response to a Time magazine post about his blog, Seth Godin yesterday rose to the challenge of a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that he would never count the ways in which marketing is evil.

seth_godin_blog1

In his post aptly titled “Is Marketing Evil?“, Godin waxes philosophical (in his usual philosophical way) about how marketing is only evil if it’s used for evil (a little like dynamite…I’m sure Alfred Nobel might agree…or maybe not).

Godin suggests that marketers have a moral obligation to use their powers for good and not evil. In other words, marketers who use the persuasive powers of mass media to sell cigarettes to children or idyllic imagery to convince people to credit-extend themselves into bankruptcy are evil, but those who get a righteous candidate elected to office are not. So I guess the question is where you draw your moral line, and which side of any controversy you consider to be “good” or “evil.”

It might be easy for some to rationalize their way into believing any paying client is a good client, but deep down I think all white-hat marketers have a moral compass that drives the sort of campaigns they will promote.

On an international level, that moral compass might shift a bit. One man’s prophet could be another man’s terrorist. Yet, in a global economy that aims to deliver a fair sense of capitalism equally across the globe, who can claim to be above profit?

As Godin says,

“ Marketing works.  …
If marketing doesn’t work, then a lot of us are wasting a great deal of effort (and cash). But it does.”

And so he (and I) leave you with the thought, “Just because you can market something, doesn’t mean you should.”

What do you think?

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