Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Miraculous Model of Moral Marketing

I have begun another semester at the lovely Alfred University, and as I delve ever deeper into the myriad of marketing I find myself engaged in moral controversy rather than curriculum. Recently, in my consumer behavior class, we reflected on the question my teacher posed: What if people only bought what they needed?

This very broad and multifaceted question didn't go very far with my constituents. In reply he received answers like, “The economy would do poorly", or "The economy would do well", or "We wouldn't need marketing". To this my professor replied, “right, so why market when people only by what they need?", thus suggesting that the sole purpose of a marketer is to convince people that they need not only what vital to their survival, but more. My dilemma is that this is as far as our student minds were allowed to travel before we were pushed onto the next subject. If we had looked at what that statement suggested and turned it on its head, we would find that the true purpose of a marketer is to ensure that people have everything they need and more, but what if when we knew the consumer had enough we marketed as advocates for those who do not have all they need. Instead of pushing them to consume excess we would encourage them to convert excess to sustenance. This is the lens through which I see marketing as a Godly practice.

I will never be concerned for my own well being as a marketer, not because I believe in the selfishness of mankind, but because I believe in the tragedy that we will never live in a world were people's most basic needs are met. The required text for the class is The Paradox of Choice, a very good read. There is one particular statement in the book that I have taken to mean something quite the opposite of my professor, and possibly the author. The statement reads:

Existence, at least human existence is defined by the choices people make. If that's true, then what can it mean to suggest, as I have in these first chapters, that we face more choices and more decisions today then ever before?

My professor deciphers this to communicate a concern for the prevalence of diminishing returns in relation to an increased number of options, which is no doubt factual; but I see it as a resounding cry for social responsibility among marketers. If we have the capacity to suggest need, why do we suggest on behalf of those who have. If we suggested on behalf of those who have not, I believe many of our economic issues would be solved. For example, instead of convincing people that they need a cash incentive from our government to go out and buy things to stimulate the economy, we ought to focus in on jobs that deliver satisfaction of our primary needs. I certainly am not an economist, so I’m sure how far I can take this point, or if it sounds idealistic, or sophomoric, so I will move on to another point.

One of the greatest concerns for marketers is being lost in clutter. The claims of mass media are ignored when our need for a product or service is satisfied. We measure our satisfaction through experience, or suggestion. So, if marketers have the skill to cause people experience loss, dissatisfaction, or need, my question is do they have the ability to cause consumers experience the loss, dissatisfaction, or need of others? I believe they can and it would make all the difference in the world if we learned to satisfy a human need instead of a want for perfection, or eternal advancement.

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