Popular belief is that with this phrase, he single-handedly doubled the volume of shampoo consumers use. Whether this is true or not, the fact remains that as marketers, we have immense power and immense responsibility.
Regrets, I’ve had a few
Working with a gaming company in the mid-’90s, my business created a promotion where gamblers received an entry ticket to win a sports car when they won a game with a particular hand of cards. The chances of such a hand were low, so the company hoped they would receive enough entries to fill a small cement mixer for the ticket draw. The promotion was so successful; they instead had to hire a cement truck. I was happy with this outcome until I later heard the winner asked the company to convert their winnings back to cash so they could continue to gamble. At that moment, I truly understood that as marketers, we have a broader responsibility than just increasing sales.
Consequences and costs
I’ve always hoped that my actions as a professional marketer would only have positive outcomes; however, the truth is it wasn’t always my primary focus. My focus was only on my client’s success. I took pride in knowing that I could come up with clever and inventive ways to get people to spend more money on almost anything. I could put it down to being too successful at my career at a young age, but if I’m truthful with myself, I rationalised the impact of some of what I achieved…until I no longer could.
Not long after that promotion, I resigned from the client and many others like it. The financial and opportunity cost of this was immense. I went from running one of the most successful and lauded privately owned marketing businesses in Australia to a boutique provider. My revenue dropped by 90%...but I found my calling. Since that time, I have only worked with the types of business where everyone wins. My business has worked with non-profits driving dramatic upshifts in foster care. We’ve worked with technology companies that reduced the impact of pollution in our oceans. We’ve promoted hand hygiene practices, reducing food poisoning. We encourage software solutions that reduce waste and improve how people work together. I have learned that you can contribute to positive change and still be a successful marketer.
The next chapter in my career is still unwritten. It will happen in a time when humans will quite literally determine the future for the planet and our species. While I may not have the answers to all the problems we face, I do know that my skills can play a role in influencing behaviour for the better. I understand that many marketers out there are happy to do what I was doing in my 20’s. Then there are others who recognise the consequences of their actions and want to make change for good. I sit firmly in the latter camp.
Marketing as a force for good
Marketers have the power to change the way we see the world. Marketing can help us elect representatives who can save us all...or we can elect those who will hasten our demise. We can promote conspicuous consumption, or we can encourage a more sustainable future. We have the knowledge and responsibility to influence change for the better, and I am focused on my small contribution to that effort.
Swords into ploughs
We cannot wash clean the sins of our past, but we can hold in our hearts what we have learned and work with those with the courage and understanding to make the change. My small contribution to this effort may seem meaningless in the big picture, but I have hope that ‘good’ overcomes ‘greed’. My team will continue to seek out brands focusing on making such contributions in their sectors, with the belief we can help them achieve triple bottom line success. This is the way my team and I now define success.
Are you a brand looking to make a positive contribution to the world and need a marketing partner with the same values? Send us a message.