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October 07, 2004

The Responsibility of Marketers


Contrary to rumors, I am not Alex Wipperfürth’s press agent. Sure, I’ve written about and posted links to his white papers (here as well as here). But I am not his press agent. Alex just seems to say a lot of smart things I wished I had said.

Case in point … Alex’s comments on marketers needing to accept responsibility for the consequences of our collective actions. I posted some related thoughts on this topic in my ‘What the (marketing) World Needs Now’ blog entry. But Alex digs deeper (way deeper) during an interview with (an online school of design and new media).

In this online interview, Alex says …

“Specifically we see a trio of substantial consequences that marketing has had on society:

Marketing trivializes authentic culture. We reduce black culture to fashion trends. Che Guevara sells soda pop in Canada and Mountain Dew stands for defiance. Adbusters calls it "culture vulturing."

Marketing is responsible for youth's loss of innocence. Early sexualization. Warped values. Damaged self-esteem. These are just a few effects that critics charge consumerism with. Whether we are talking A&F selling underwear to pre-teens labeled with words such as "wink wink" or "eye candy" or NYC spas offering back-to-school waxing specials, things have gotten a bit out of hand, don't you think?

Marketing has prioritized consumption over citizenship. After the tragic 9/11 attacks, President Bush told a nation of anxious Americans to continue on with our daily lives, to continue shopping. This remark was received without scrutiny. Implicitly, we understood that the greatest responsibility as Americans is not to vote, but to buy.

That also explains how companies like General Mills get away with incredibly inappropriate school programs: 'Learn about geysers by biting into this fruit snack.'

Where am I leading with this? We as marketers have a responsibility to act with heightened awareness and to enter into a dialogue with our critics and disillusioned consumers. This is not an appeal for marketing regulation of any kind. The last thing I am trying to do is to gag creativity, to start playing it safe.

But I do suggest a heightened awareness on the consequences of our actions in marketing. To add a simple criterion to how we evaluate creative submissions: IS IT APPROPRIATE?”

[From: "How to Hijack Your Brand" - an interview with Alex Wipperfürth.]


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John over at Brand Autopsy points to a phenomenal interview with brand marketing wunderkind Alex Wipperfurth of Plan B (and isn't that a great name for an agency!). The interview, with the online design school, is long - four [Read More]


Great article

Thanks for the second recommend in less than a week - guess I gotta go add another title to the stack.

Even more interesting - that people wonder if you - essentially a customer evangelist -might be Brand Hijack's press agent. Unpaid and intrinsically motivated mavens (or whatever Gladwell calls 'em) are even more persuasive than press agents. (You're a fan, not a hired gun so I trust you that much more.)

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