When to get out

When to get out

Should you market a product or promote an organisation if you don’t agree with the company’s business practices?

You work in marketing, so you know how powerful it can be.

Many people like to think that they’re not influenced by the messages that are beamed to us every day by companies and governments, but the truth is that we are all affected to some extent. And when it’s done right, marketing becomes a superpower – you can use it to change the world.

But as every superhero knows, “with great power comes great responsibility”.

In an earlier age, marketers used their abilities to convince millions of people to smoke. More recently, marketers have spearheaded efforts to introduce plain packaging, which would actually prevent them from using their expertise to sell cigarettes. They have already been successful in Australia, Ireland and the UK; employing their skills to effect real, positive change.

If you’ve moved beyond your entry-level job, chances are you chose to work in your particular industry. It may not be exactly what you want in the long term, but there must have been something about it that attracted you.

Perhaps you wanted to put together exciting campaigns for a fashion brand; but does that mean you’re willing to work for an employer that uses sweatshop labour?

Maybe you’re passionate about poker or horseracing, and want to share that passion with other people – but what if the business you’re working for isn’t properly warning people about the dangers of problem gambling?

Most of us have flexible principles. We give to charity – but not so much we can’t pay the rent or go to the pub. We don’t suffer fools gladly – unless it’s to our advantage. We care about the environment – but don’t swap the apartment and automobile for a yurt and a pony. Still, if a firm is straying too far from your fundamental beliefs, it may be time for a change.

Of course, it might be possible to suggest changes internally. Companies increasingly understand that corporate social responsibility programmes aren’t about glossing over moral failings and doing just enough to keep activists satisfied. They know they need to be authentic about working for a better world if they want a good reputation among increasingly aware consumers.

In the case of the fashion industry, that means coming out against sweatshops – and putting together campaigns to let people know.

For gambling, new regulations and increased scrutiny mean that businesses are increasingly aware that they need to market their products in a responsible way.

The good news is that, as a marketer, you can push for your business to embrace principles in good conscience – as our piece in the first issue of Catalyst about brand citizenship shows, it is often an excellent way of reaching out to consumers. There’s never been a better time to be an ethical marketer.

Steve Woolley Head of External Affairs CIM
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