Ethics and Marketing–An Oxymoron

Christmas. Ah, that time of joyful giving. Celebrating the birth of Jesus. Christmas Carols. Hot chocolate with whipped cream.

Oops, it wasn’t even Halloween yet, let alone Thanksgiving. The stores were full of Christmas stuff. It is still two weeks before “Black Friday” (the day that retail stores go from red to black, or loss to profit for the year) and my email box has Wal-Mart ads for the day.

Everyone knows that retail stores depend upon Christmas sales for the year’s profits. This has been known for 100 years.

This is obviously bad management. But, we get what we deserve, I guess.

Business managers turned to a new thing called “marketing” a long time ago. The job of marketing people was to entice people into the stores.

Then we got TV. And TV needed advertising for revenues. Marketers needed advertising to get their message to the people. Before TV, there were newspapers and magazines. Note: I’ve made a good living from the magazine business, and even today I’d like some advertising on my other Website to help pay the bills.

But marketers weren’t as successful as they would have liked. It wasn’t enough to just use superlatives to promote their stores and products (have you ever seen ads from the 1920s?). They turned to the findings of that new academic discipline called psychology to figure out how people work.

So now, we have turned to manipulation. Create a need where none existed before and then offer to fill it. Muscles not big enough? Breasts not big enough? Kids may not make it into Harvard? We’ve got a solution.

The current trend in magazine advertising is to write advertising that looks just like the editorial content of the magazine. The idea is to trick the reader into reading the ad. They may even think that the claims made in the ad are from the supposedly unbiased editors of the magazine. The more respected the editorial, the better the success with this form of advertising.

By the way, I hope you know that for many years, advertisers in women’s magazines have had a clause in their contracts that the magazine may not run an article that is in any way critical of makeup or other products including the way they test makeup. All articles in women’s magazines must be promotional of the types of products that will be advertised.

But even in business-to-business which is my market, marketers and publishers want things to be just as great and happy as possible. I have a friend who just left his magazine job and is trying to sell a subscription-based newsletter. “I don’t take advertising, so I can be honest,” he says.

Well, I hope I’m honest too. 😉

What’s the reason for this season (actually following Thanksgiving, which is also a good thing to celebrate)? Let’s keep this in mind. Don’t let marketers convince you that you need things you don’t. Keep your head. Buy presents, sure, but buy with intention not under the influence of artificially inflamed emotions.

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