As a marketing professional, I often wonder where the vocation sits on the grand spectrum of loathing. Without any material proof, I'm going to guess it skews to one extreme, somewhere between used-car salespeople, drug dealers, and assorted scumbags of the world.
Maybe that's a little harsh, but consider all that marketers have done that requires undoing or regulation by governments and laws (think spam, privacy, and telemarketing). At the same time, anyone will tell you that a business's financial health correlates directly to its marketing success. And so we walk the line, as Johnny Cash would say.
Changing the marketing game.
Though cluttered with too many swindlers and link baiters, Facebook and Twitter still hold tremendous value as a truth serum for brands. Companies that have spent any amount of time online know this--in a profound way.
Just look at any number of customer reviews (on any site), and it's plain to see: Brands are neither loathed nor loved; they are judged and rejudged every day on the basis of personal and anecdotal interactions. What social media powers is the ability for every business to understand the tiny nuances that make consumers revel in or revolt against a brand.
Yes, there is plenty of ambiguity and differences of opinion. But it's clear that only one component of marketing offers companies the opportunity to overcome the negative (without fail): a strong moral compass.
The moral compass of marketing.
If customers perceive your company as doing the right thing (because you are doing the right thing), the potential damage of any negativity will be less. What’s more, those who love your brand will love it even more and tell their friends.
So what does your business stand for in relation to your consumers? What types of relationships do you want with them? Before you buy that first ad, before you ask for that first email address, before you post that next piece to your Facebook page, spend some serious (quality) time defining your marketing moral compass.
Ask yourself the right questions.
Most marketers run afoul because they haven't defined their moral compass, and they have no bearings when presented with opportunities that could wind up messing with their cultural GPS. So, grab a notebook and start asking yourself these questions:
1. How do you want people to feel before, during, and after they touch your brand?
2. What are you willing to do to get attention for your brand?
3. How important are the relationships that you have with your consumers?
4. How open, responsive, and quick will you be when responding to consumers’ (positive, negative, and neutral) feedback?
5. What should (and should not) be used in terms of consumers' information? Do you have their permission, and do they understand it?
6. What is the common good that everyone within the organization should be working toward?
7. What will be the measurement of a healthy marketing organization? Will it be by revenue? How many people are employed? What consumers think about your work? Something else?
8. Is the overriding success of the work going to be the company's needs, the needs of others, or something else?
Don't stop there. In answering the list above, more questions (and, one hopes, better answers) will arise. This is not meant to be a linear piece of work that ends up in a document, then a vision statement, then posted somewhere on a wall in your office as some kind of finished idea, or worse--a slide in your PowerPoint deck.
Your marketing moral compass is an ever-growing and ongoing organic embodiment of what you stand for (and what you can't stand). When it is roughly defined and in line with the personal and corporate values of everyone involved, share it with your team members, be open to their candid feedback and input, and ensure that it is honestly in line with the values of the company and of the people you keep.
In a sea of brands that are willing to do anything for a click, a like, a follow, a friend, a retweet, a comment, a review, an impression and more, being vigilant about having and embodying a strong marketing moral compass will always keep your business on the straight and narrow. Ultimately, it will also be in the defining moments--like an opportunity to have a business benefit that may not be as good for your consumers, when the metal of your marketing moral compass will meet the road.
Having it fixed, in place, and part of the culture will always help you to resolve these moments and point your business toward true north.