In 1990, Bill Hicks performed a stand-up bit called Revelations. In it, he says to the audience, “By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing…kill yourself.”
He goes on to say that those in marketing or advertising are “Satan’s little helpers,” “the ruiner of all things good,” and guilty of “filling the world with bile and garbage.” That’s not even the worst thing I’ve heard about marketing and advertising as a whole, how about you? It’s hard to get into a debate about the ethics of marketing and whatnot without delving into the realm of consumerism and waste, environmental crime, and even more socially-charged topics, and at the end of the day, it is true that people who have even little bit of money spend it on things they don’t need, which in turn clutters up their lives, and finally makes them no less happy than they were before they bought all that stuff to begin with.
But, short of reverting to a hunting/gathering, no system of ownership, loincloth-wearing type of existence (and let’s face it, with the country’s obesity problem that wouldn’t be good for ANYBODY) the fact remains that we’ve got to work. We have to either work for businesses or run businesses and to make those businesses we have to market them. How do we do that without being reduced to Satan spawn? Steve Pavlina says that the only way to market responsibly is to market a product that you can believe in. That means fast food chains, car companies, and drug companies are pretty much screwed, as are manufacturers of plastic widgets, squeezy stress balls, and many, many other things.
Pavlina asks you if you feel like your product or service benefits society and the world. Are you marketing something that will save money, lives, society, or a combination of the three? Maybe not. Maybe you own a hair salon. You make people feel better about the way they look, but would Pavlina consider your service a benefit to society? Maybe not. Does that mean you shouldn’t market your business? No. Not unless you don’t want to stay in business for very long.
While it might be possible to give you a clear and complete roadmap to marketing your business, you’re not paying me (hah!), so I’m not going to. I will, however, give you some times on what to AVOID when marketing your product or service. These are the no-nos. It’s up to you to figure out the yes-yeses.
1. We’ve already given you an example of what happens when people market through children. You come off as a bad guy. Unless you’re marketing a product or service that will make children’s lives better and thus turn them into better, more productive members of society than we ever were, stay away from it. Same goes for the elderly. Unless you’ve got a business that fights for the rights of the elderly, or you have some product that makes their lives better, leave them alone. You’ll just come off looking like a jerk, and you’ll probably make the angels cry.
2. Don’t exclude any particular demographic. No “selective marketing.” Don’t have an ad with a bunch of people from just one race, or feature an ad with all really skinny people. You make the people who aren’t that race, or aren’t skinny, feel like you don’t want them to buy your product or use your service. You disenfranchise them. That’s bad. And if you don’t want certain people to buy your product or use your service just because of the way they look or the particular social group they belong to, you’re both a jerk and not very smart. It pays to be inclusive in your advertising – many studies have shown that.
3. Stay away from violence and aggressive sexual innuendo. Somebody’s kid might see that.
4. In pricing your product or service, don’t employ price fixing, price discrimination, price wars, bid rigging, or dumping. That’s just sheisty.
5. Don’t lie, steal, or cheat. I know. It seems counter-intuitive to the whole marketing process. But don’t do it. Don’t make your product packaging look like someone elses, don’t name your website some ridiculously similar url to your competitor’s so you get their misspelling customers, and don’t say your product or service is something or will do something that it won’t. If you sell ice cream, don’t tell people that your ice cream removes wrinkles. Unless it does. In which case, give me some.
6. Don’t spam. It’s annoying, and it’s getting to be pretty useless.
7. Don’t. Do not. Telemarket. Don’t do it. You have someone call my house, I’m never, ever, ever going to buy your product or service. Ever.
If any of these tips leaves you with a “Well, there goes MY marketing strategy,” you probably need to work on developing your marketing conscience a little more. It’s OK. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
- 10 Things to Try for 30 Days (toptenz.net)
- How to Video – Understand Marketing and Branding (ihowtovideos.com)