Presenting a seminar on Consumer Psychology to an audience of small business owners, I was interrupted somewhere between the Pareto Principle and Law of Reciprocity by one of the attendees, “Hold on - his getting into the consumer’s mind stuff sounds a little suspicious. I’m not into manipulating people into buying things.”
I paused my presentation and discussed his concerns. Truth was, this attendee’s hesitations were some I’d shared throughout my marketing career.
Recognizing the “power” effective marketing tactics had on influencing consumers, I was concerned about the ethical implications or dilemmas such information might present.
Marketing was always one of those skills that I’ve known I had the propensity for since I was six years old, selling Beanie Baby necklaces from my little red wagon or Lion King backpack. By telling the other first graders that “only the cool kids” donned their TY Beanie Babies with these “exclusive” accessories, and offering to give “them and just them” a special deal on my handmade goods, I sold a LOT of them. I hustled a few on the school playground, until my school teacher became increasing suspicious of my ever-growing stockpile of gumball machine money and mandated I close up shop – effective immediately.
As my business education continued and I had the opportunity to market a variety of different brands and organizations, I began to recognize the true “power” of marketing, and like my seminar attendee stated in his hesitations, found myself saying, “Wait this could be bad!” as I too did not want to simply study how to manipulate others. So for several years, I concentrated my professional purists in the nonprofit arena, and realized that the cornerstone to generating resources necessary to keep a much-need therapeutic riding program open was good marketing (including some serious consumer psychology study).
Michael Fishman, a NYC based consumer psychologist describes the power of marketing as, “[Consumer psychology] is not about taking advantage of people. This is about bringing products and activities to people’s attention in a way that’s helpful. It’s kind of like in the James Bond movies. You can either use this stuff for good or for evil.”
So if you’re concerned with the ethical standards regarding the power of promotional strategies, I hope to encourage you to consider what you’re selling – is it something good, that will make other’s lives better, or is it something detrimental or simply worthless that requires borderline scamming to simply get others to buy?
It’s my hope for you that you never market something you don’t believe in.
Not only will such practices most likely yield disappointing results, as your hesitations will seep through - with knowledge comes great power and it’s up to you to decide how you will use it.
Someone studying biowarfare agents can either use their knowledge to destroy the world with a terror-like outbreak, or save the world by developing an antidote to dangerous agent exposure.
The choice is yours.
Will you choose to use your understanding of marketing for good or for evil?
About Hannah Becker:
Becker Digital is a full-service Marketing and Public Relations Agency dedicated to empowering mission-driven organizations to reach their goals. We apply our expertise in community development, social media strategy, and public relations to connect organizational clients with today’s always-scrolling online users.