Seth Godin’s post yesterday, Is marketing evil? refreshed a subject that’s come up in my mind from time to time. Seth’s post was about avoiding marketing things that are harmful to people. He also briefly touched upon evil marketing techniques, which I think are important for all business people to consider.
Sometimes the product or service we’re selling doesn’t have any particularly harmful effects, but the way that we’re selling it isn’t as open or truthful as it should be. Tricking customers into buying your product for a quick buck may win in the short run, but it certainly won’t help your brand or reputation. Eventually you’ll run out of rocks to hide behind.
There are also products which are fine when used responsibly by the right people – alcohol is one example that comes to mind. However, some products in this category that may not be as obvious. For example, many online games can become addicting to people so much so that they avoid most interaction with the real world (disclaimer – I play computer games – both online and off. I am keenly aware of addictive qualities of some games). How do you market and sell a product that could be harmfully addicting to some people, especially when that addiction can feed your bottom line through monthly fees? Should you let people know about the possibilities ahead of time? Should you provide help for people who become addicted?
I think the important point is for marketers, business people, salespeople, and anyone else involved in selling a product or service to really consider the impact of both the product and the marketing. Using the golden rule to do onto others as you want done to yourself is a good measuring stick. Or follow Google’s lead and “do no evil”.
(photo by TonivS @ Flickr CC)