The unfathomable success of the TV series Mad Men has cast a bright light on one of the biggest problems of the marketing industry: their image. And while the show has gone to great lengths to ensure that the program is full of drama, the reality is that it parallels reality very closely.
In fact, the unscrupulous behavior of marketers in the past has become textbook material. From experimentation with subliminal messaging to the classic Ford debacle when they did a cost analysis of paying off the families of those injured in car explosions vs. the price of redesigning the then top-selling Pinto so that the gas tank wouldn’t explode, the tarnished image of the marketing industry has been forged through a long history of unsavory actions and less-than-honorable intentions.
With such a checkered history, it comes as no surprise that the average person, and even many businesspeople, view marketing as unethical manipulation. The idea that marketing exists to dress up a pauper to make him look like a prince, and then beat the world over the head with it, is continually reinforced in the marketplace today.
However marketing, in its essence, is similar to so many other concepts in the world; it is what we make of it. With this in mind, I propose a new definition of marketing for the 21st Century. Truly effective marketing is the ever-evolving fusion of empathy, innovation, communication and excellence.
Using these four pillars, marketers should endeavor to:
- Understand the needs and concerns of consumers
- Evolve business products and/or services to meet these in the best way possible
- Optimize the message and methods of delivery to convey the value and intentions of the company to consumers
- Monitor the results to identify further improvements in the process
In the end, the desired result is to maximize the benefits to both parties.
No doubt, the challenges in evolving the public image of the marketing industry will be many. However, with the business world’s growing awareness of the importance of interpersonal relationships and integrity, it’s undeniable that such a movement is necessary, and even inevitable. As consumers gain power in the continually connected internet world, the choice for marketers and business people is to step up to this worthy challenge, or perish in the fire of consumer backlash.