The Potential Virtue of Marketing
Can anything good come from marketing? Musing on the potential it has to be virtuous.
Marketing often gets a bad rep and for good reason.
To non-practitioners the term marketing evokes any number of negative thoughts and feelings. Images of frivolous time and money spent on a new corporate identity worry the finance department while misgivings of manipulation and deceit caution the consumer whenever marketing is mentioned.
In some ways this mistrust of motives is deserved. Often, the consumer is left to fend for themselves like a fish surrounded by a sea full of nets, hooks and traps. Like the fish we're immersed in a world of the marketer's creation; advertisements, sponsorships, product placements, branding, displays, viral content and signage everywhere we turn.
Within corporations marketing can often seem like the undisciplined rogue department, wound-up on the latest internet fad, focusing on what seem like surface issues like colors or type or shapes when what really matters is the quality of the product or service. Marketing sticks its nose into other departments; business, too, telling engineering how to make the product better or asking manufacturing to speed up its production rate and pushing finance to change pricing.
So, it's not surprising that inside the company or out in the world, marketing is often viewed as a problem that no one knows how to rid themselves of.
I propose marketing can be virtuous. And by virtuous I mean beyond helping its company sell more widgets and thus increase the company's ability to be profitable. Of course, that's a virtue of a sort and no small thing when one considers the number of jobs that marketing either protects or helps to create, along with the general health of the company and so on.
But, marketing can be virtuous beyond what it does for the good of its own organization.
When done right and when done with integrity, marketing connects two parties; one with a problem, need or want and the other with a solution, product or service. Marketing helps these two parties find each other in a vast and oft confusing world. By doing so, it is facilitating the creation and realization of value for both parties. Marketing helps two parties that need each other get connected so that both can walk away better off than before they engaged.
According to our friend Adam Smith, that's a good thing—some would even call it virtuous.