Monday, May 26, 2008

Altruistic all too infrequently: AdAge on "meaningful marketing"

During the past couple of days, has published a few great articles on what happens when marketers act responsibly. Granted, one of the reasons marketers behave is to get you to buy stuff. But still, it's a nice reminder that marketing doesn't have to be evil.

A few snippets...

In "Make Your Marketing Useful, Like Samsung and Charmin," Jonah Bloom gives some great examples of "useful marketing," like Samsung's airport charging stations, and challenges other companies to spend money on something other than advertising:

My suggestions: AT&T, for example, how about you spare a few million from the billion you spend shoving your bars in my face, and help the MTA fix its Subway intercoms? Or Citi, how about you take some of the hundred million a year you spend telling us how friendly you are to construct a wireless network for New York? (Hell, I can even see an adaptation of the umbrella in your logo as a wireless signal.) BP, you really want to convince us you're green, how about putting together a borrow-a-bike system in a few U.S. cities, like the ones in Paris, Berlin and Munich?
In "Top Advertisers Add Meaning to Marketing," Jack Neff profiles one agency that is looking to make its work more fulfilling:
Young marketers or agency executives don't take long to learn they've dedicated their lives to creating stuff people seek to avoid, and with increasing success. But Bridge, a digital unit of WPP Group's Wunderman in, of all places, Cincinnati, ancestral homeland of Procter & Gamble Co. and interruptive advertising as we know it, thinks it has a disarmingly simple answer: "Marketing with Meaning."


[A]s Mr. Woffington and Chief Marketing Strategist Bob Gilbreath see it, the idea is to make the marketing the cause, with intrinsic value to consumers so it pulls them in rather than be thrust upon them where they can least avoid it.

"Consumers hate advertising," Mr. Gilbreath wrote in a preamble for a WPP Digital-backed discussion group last year. "Meanwhile, consumers hate us -- the marketers and advertisers who invent new ways to spam them online and offline. The result: CMO and agency turnover is rising dramatically, and advertisers are ranked below lawyers in terms of public respect."


Bridge's alternative, according to Mr. Woffington: "How do you make sure your marketing is held up to the same standard the product is? ... P&G says their products improve people's lives. But how about the marketing? Does the marketing itself improve consumers' lives? ... That's a much higher standard than just selling more product."
And in "Yes, There Is an ROI for Doing Good," Neff argues that cause marketing can be profitable--and often is:
Though you might not always glean this by looking at the home pages of the consumer-products giants touting their latest philanthropic or earth-saving gestures, these are for-profit entities.

While the cynical outlook, repeated endlessly across the blogosphere, is that cause marketing is all about making money, perhaps the more mature, post-cynical outlook is, yes, of course it is, and, well, it should be.
As someone who's worked in marketing for more than a decade, I can tell you that it's not always easy to see the good in the work we do. Part of the problem is that the profession seems to attract a disproportionate number of people who put style before substance (not you, of course--you're a borderline saint, and just perfect just the way you are). A bigger problem is that the ultimate goal of marketing is to sell something, and since people can be greedy they often stop at nothing to try to get you to buy their stuff.

But maybe our struggling economy is forcing us to take a closer look at how we present products and services. Or maybe it's just a phase. Either way, when no one's buying much, being responsible at least allows you to feel good about yourself, even if you don't feel good about your bottom line.

Photo: Gadget Guy Dave M on Flickr

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