As an MBA student interested in specializing in marketing, I’ve grappled with the question: is marketing evil?
I was a journalist prior to enrolling in the MBA. And like marketing, journalism gets a bad rep (think fake news). Except I saw the value of journalism in holding the powerful to account. Journalists are in the business of speaking truth to power – a sixth estate.
Marketers are not.
The goal of marketing is everything to do with profitability “while offering the right product, to the right person, at the right time, in the right manner, through the right channels, at the right price,” according to my marketing prof.
It’s the profitability part that can get murky. Are marketers trying to sell you stuff you don’t need? Are they devaluing your intellect by doing so?
The crux of marketing is to entice you to purchase something. Doesn’t matter what.
That’s where it gets iffy. Marketing makeup by making customers feel insecure about their physical features is toxic marketing.
I define toxic marketing as any practice that involves using your customer’s deepest fears to sell them products. Instead of offering a need, a point of distinction that makes a product better than others, or illustrating a sense of contentment, toxic marketing goes for the lowest common denominator in selling a product to the consumer.
You see that often with skin-whitening creams, which are popular in South Asia. Marketing makeup by making customers feel joy and self-love is different – it’s not digging into the individual’s deeply held insecurities as a catalyst for making the purchase.
People aren’t stupid. Marketers who think otherwise are fooling themselves. Today’s consumer probably conducts more research prior to a purchase than ever before thanks to the Internet.
There’s a greater societal self-awareness that can cut through toxic marketing practices today. The millennial demographic is especially averse to such practices.
Marketers are being called out for impossible and inauthentic standards of beauty and wealth, but consumers can differentiate between what feels authentic and inauthentic.
Like any profession, marketing could be a force for good or bad. Marketing isn’t inherently evil. It could benefit consumers by helping them sift through the plethora of products out there.
Possibly making their lives easier.
I help companies grow by telling their stories.