Social Marketing Morality

Seth Godin discusses the morality of marketing and the fact that we are responsible for what we sell and how we sell it:

Let’s start at the beginning:

Marketing works.

Marketing (the use of time and money to create a story and spread it) works. Human beings don’t make rational decisions, they make emotional ones, and we’ve seen time and again that those decisions are influenced by the time and money spent by marketers.

So, assuming you’ve got no argument with that (and if you’re a marketer who doesn’t believe marketing works, we need to have a longer discussion…) then we get to the next part of the argument:

Your marketing changes the way people act.

Of course, we engage in social marketing precisely to change the way people act. And given the critical, often life-and-death health and social issues that we address in social marketing programs, we have an extra obligation to the public trust to conduct ourselves in an ethical manner. The positive outcomes that we are trying to achieve in improving people’s health or quality of life never justify engaging in questionable practices to achieve our ends. I’ll leave the last word to Seth:

As marketers, we have the power to change things, and the way we use that power is our responsibility–not the market’s, not our boss’s. Ours.

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