Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Evils of Marketing

In business, there is often good-natured teasing between the disciplines. The division of power not only ensures fulfillment of all the responsibilities, but it creates barriers between those who spend the money and those who count the money. This tension is beneficial and if parlayed correctly helps ensure that the organization is properly run. Recognizing this doesn't eliminate the tension but it does make it more hilarious.

What's true in the confines of an organization often gets carried over to the classroom, and my students have repeatedly heard about the evils of marketing, mostly from those who participate in other business disciplines. While this is understandable, some of the jokes may have had an unintended effect. They cause those who feel called to a career in marketing to question the validity of their chosen path. As an individual who has spent her adult life in this field, this makes me sad. Sure, marketing can be used for less-than-commendable purposes, but so can any discipline (Enron, anyone?). The marketer's job isn't to convince people to buy something they don't know, it's to communicate to the organization's audience on its behalf. It's the responsible marketer who listens to the customer, discovers their needs, and creates products or services that meet those needs. It's not about need creation, it's about need fulfillment.

And while some may see this as evil, there's also a part of me that wants acknowledgment for all the good that happens as a result - all of the innovation, and new product creation, and communication that helps customers understand what they're purchasing and why. There are times when the good gets lost in the clutter - often as a result of the marketers' own actions, but that doesn't mean the good doesn't exist. Just like how the media spokespeople for Christianity can be some of the worse representations of my faith, those who often get notoriety for their marketing exploits, aren't the ones who really represent its significance.

The battle between disciplines is one that I've verbally chosen to stay out of. After all, I appreciate those individuals who count the money, sell the product, or ensure that my HR benefits are maintained. But for all my students who question whether the field they've chosen is good, this blog's for you.

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The Evils of Marketing