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The beginning of a new era for marketers?

January 21st, 2009 | by Klaus Holzapfel |
An Historic Day in America
Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

President Obama called on Americans to confront “our collective failure to make hard choices.”

How does this apply to us?
This country could change quite fundamentally with the new administration. The President called the Americans to action. Many people that enthusiastically supported his election took on a liability and won’t pull back now from their end of the deal.

His election came with a little homework for all of us: Increased focus on the common good.

We went through a phase of selfishness unlike anything we have seen in recent history. Many of us (Investors, CEO’s, government + plenty others), chose to ignore the signs at the wall and rather took our piece from a poisoned cake.

The big underlying theme was to serve your own interests first.

The new administration tells us (and will tell us again and again) to shift focus on the common good. As a consequence, some of us will begin to look out for each other in new ways.

Some of our core values might begin to change; Self restraint, volunteering, sacrificing, trying to set examples, being more humble, etc.  might move more into the spotlight.

How does marketing fit in?
As marketers we are shapers of influence. We develop messages that can reach large audiences. We need to hold ourselves to higher ethical standards. Almost in a sense as doctors or CPA’s are bound to certain professional standards.

  • Do you believe that promoting a greasy burger or sugar loaded soda when a big part of our population is suffering from obesity is the right thing?
  • Do you believe that marketing a 6000 lb Pickup Truck is in line with our efforts to conserve energy?
  • Do you support services that clearly aim to get people further into debt?
  • How do you feel about that real violent video game marketed to kids?
  • Have you ever thought about the environmental aspects of some of the products we are marketing?
  • Will you take on a project if you know it will put people out of their jobs?

This list could be continued. You might answer “Yes” to some of the above and go ahead with it. Fine.

But if your answer is no, you should do the right thing and stay away from the project. You might also face more questions and concerns in the future and might not get the credit you have gotten in the past. Things that are not brilliant shouldn’t be called brilliant.

How about suggesting a cause marketing campaign to your clients that can help raise some money for people that are struggling?

As leaders and influencers we should aim to help others reach their full potential. As a social media expert you could offer training to your community. Many people could benefit from your knowledge but can’t really afford to pay you for consulting.

Bottom line
I think many of us know what Mr. Obama expects from each of us. We know what to do.

Let’s do it. “I can’t” has just been removed from the dictionary ;-)

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  1. 21 Responses to “The beginning of a new era for marketers?”

  2. By designtwit on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    I see Obama's call to action, not about what we "can't do" but, about what we can do to get on a committee or board and volunteer your marketing service and raise awareness for a cause that means something to you. Our public school PTO raised over $100K last year, increasing our PTO budget and improving programs in our school… not from a gov hand-out but, from parents, teachers and corporate sponsors that answered the call marketing put forth and made donations of material, money and time to help the local public school. This is the kind of change/choice Obama is talking about.

    Marketers have always had to make ethical choices about who they do work for. Historically this was hammered home extensively 15+ yrs ago when I attended a NC design school; calling design ethics into question when the tobacco industry was under fire. That is not new. What needs to be questioned now is how will you use your talents for the common good? Yes, time for a change in how we think. Yes, we know what to do! Make this a "call to action" – to end with marketing speak ;)

  3. By Elneclare on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    Like you, I feel it's up to each of us to bring change by looking at how our actions affect the world around us. Otherwise we will waste this chance to repair the damage that years of selflessness has done create the problems we now face.

  4. By derektampa on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    I think you're spot on! We cannot under any circumstances just sit back and expect that all will change unless we recognize our accountability to contribute to the progress

  5. By Magnetwear on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    Well said !

  6. By Klaus_Holzapfel on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    And it requires much less than many of us think. A small changes in our lifes & our decision making each day can make quite a collective difference. Everyone just needs to chip in a little…some more, some less

  7. By Peggy Hoffman on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    Hear hear! Since we opened out association management company 7 years ago we have only worked with associations we felt were socially responsible. I honor the individual's rights to pursue what they want, but don't even feel I need to follow blindly. But I guess the question really is, is it enough for us individually to put the brakes on or do we need laws to help? Can we individually create change needed to see biz that aren't socially resp go out of biz? I'm not for govt intervention on a gut level but…

  8. By Jayson on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    Klaus, well written and well said. My own commitment is to vote with my dollar. I consider everything I buy, where it comes from, who made it, where was it made, how much the folks were paid etc. However, I do "fall asleep" sometimes as well. Thanks for reminding me to stay awake!

    http://www.revolutionarymanblog.com

  9. By Dave on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    Yesterday, JFK's speech kept coming to mind. "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." If Obama can keep the love affair with the media, this country can make a very nice turn-around.

  10. By Klaus_Holzapfel on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    Yes, the sentence from JFK was lingering in the air yesterday.

    I was also thinking a lot about Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta who only passed away 2 years ago. Rosa Parks would also have been a great addition to the party. Sad they had to miss it.

  11. By Klaus_Holzapfel on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    You are ahead of my game. I took on a few jobs in my past that I would not do today. But it was financial pressure that avoided me to say no. If you look at our reference list you know who they are ;-)

    I am very privileged today in the way that I can say no and don't have to worry about the future of our business. It took a while to get there…

  12. By Maranda Gibson on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    I think it's interesting to see how one person has affected the way we're looking at something like marketing from an ethical standpoint, when there have been advocacy groups trying to enact change for years.

    Wonderful posts, incredibly throught provoking. :)

  13. By ColeTaylor on Jan 21, 2009 | Reply

    Had America taken responsibility eight years ago, instead of letting government handle things, we wouldn't be where we are. I'm not an Obama supporter, because I simply think he isn't what he claims, and he hasn't enough experience, he said it himself – but I will back, with full support, any initiative that puts responsibility back on companies, people and government. Let's start with Socially Responsible Capitalism.

  14. By rashin on Jan 22, 2009 | Reply

    You are right on target with this post. But we need to bring awareness not only to our role as marketers but also socially responsible consumers. We're like grown children as adults, still blaming our parents for the dysfunctionality in our lives. It's time to take responsibility and create what we want in our lives.

  15. By Betty and Bob on Jan 22, 2009 | Reply

    We have found a company that is turning business into benevolence. It dedicates a percentage of sales right off the top to sponsoring needy children and working other humanitarian projects around the world. In the process it provides an income to those who want to get involved. Their personal care products are free of all known harmful ingredients. They are dedicated to making the world a better place in all facets of their operation. To learn more, see our website at http://www.starfishalliance.com/bettyandbob

  16. By Genie on Jan 22, 2009 | Reply

    Absolutely, this is where the rubber meets the road. I'm already connecting with other people locally who want to shift our perspectives in business. We've seen the outline of a new vision for some time, but now it's time to fill in the practicalities. For me that means doing what I can: taking small simple steps (like filling up a jar of change to take to the food bank and encouraging others to do the same) but also remembering every step of the way that my individual interest and the common good intersect. As a business owner, restructuring my marketing efforts is a huge part of that.

  17. By BirksPhoto on Jan 22, 2009 | Reply

    I agree, it is in our best interest to take responsibility for our destiny as a country. Marketing has been a catalyst for all of the products that re sold and promoted that have negative results. But we have a unique position, we as marketers and graphic designers, can influence people in a way that no other can. By using the tools available to us we can do ethical marketing and design. We can change the strategy to promote positive looks and results instead of taking the easy way out and sell sex or violence.

    Great post, look forward to hearing more.

  18. By Stephen A. on Jan 22, 2009 | Reply

    I think Obama's call to service is a very admirable one. I'm reminded, however, of JFK's call to service and even George HW Bush's "Thousand Points of Light" call to service, though I suspect many on the Left would like to think this is a brand new idea, or something wholly owned by them. It's not, and volunteerism can't be politicized. All good presidents inspire us to give back to others, and, as you say here, good marketers are honest and responsible and call others to do good, as well..

  19. By venglish on Jan 25, 2009 | Reply

    With the dawn of a new presidency there should be a new level of thinking. I can agree with everyone's viewpoints. With that being said what has done in the past in done. This may seem like an exert from Jerry Maguire, but when you are less concerned about money. You learn to appreciate the differences we possess and gain empathy for the consumer, employer, everyone. Great topic, I will be looking back for more.

  20. By Abhishek on Jan 27, 2009 | Reply

    Its sole individual responsibility not ones !!

  21. By BillyWarhol on Feb 17, 2009 | Reply

    Fab Photo by Hawk!! So Thankful Barack Obama is the New President of America + for the Whole World!! ;)) Good Riddance Bush + Brainwashed Flock!!

    Happy Obama is visiting here in Canada on Thursday – he is very very Welcome!! Peace*

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