The ethical marketing department

Larger businesses have marketing departments spending money on getting their products into your awareness. Not only do they sell you products, but they sell you ideas about lifestyles, identity and aspiration to make you want their stuff. We’re encouraged to be dissatisfied with what we have, so that we keep wanting new things. We’re taught that to be left behind, old fashioned, out of date, behind, is a dreadful, stigmatising failure. This all helps to keep us spending.

In some industries, the influence of marketing is truly pernicious. There’s big money in pharmaceuticals and precious little in preventative medicine. On the whole not getting sick in the first place is far better for you than having to mop up the symptoms after the event. Guess where the money gets spent.

If, as a species, we are to have a viable future, we need to consume less, and to do that, we need some kind of counter-narrative to the marketing stories in the mainstream. We need an ethical marketing department that champions sustainability, re-use, reducing consumption, making healthy choices. We need a marketing agency that gives the small producers the visibility they need so they aren’t drowned out by the incessant shouting of big brands. This marketing department needs to champion things that make life better at no cost. It needs to run advertising campaigns for compassion, honesty, friendship, going for a nice walk and the such.

No one is going to pay the ethical marketing company any real money. No one is going to have time to properly organise it or write plans for it. That’s ok, because we can do it anyway. Take a job with the ethical marketing company. No previous experience required. Start today. Take whatever opportunities you have to be the PR person for stuff you think matters. No one will pay you, but the hours are good and the job satisfaction considerable.

Let’s tell some new stories about what we’re worth and what we deserve, and who we are. Stories that are not centred around a brand and that aren’t designed to have us relentlessly consuming. Let’s challenge the story that any brand is ’exciting’ because most of what’s out there in the mainstream is obvious, tedious, monotonous beige cardboard wrapped in cheap plastic. Including far too much of what passes for entertainment. We need new stories all round.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “The ethical marketing department

  • Ziixxxitria

    A couple people in my family tend to spend a lot of money in tiny increments by buying small, cheap crap because it’s shiny and interesting for a little while. You know what I mean, dollar store trinkets that fall apart after a day. I never really saw the point in that. Why not find something more lasting, that you won’t be bored with at the end of the day? I don’t have a lot of money, so I also often buy small and cheap, but if I buy paper and pens, I get a lot out of drawing, writing, etc. Instead of browsing aimlessly at a store, why not just fly a kite or visit a friend? It’s far more fulfilling than buying plastic things, getting bored, and throwing them away.

  • Cianaodh (Key-Ah-Knee) - a.k.a. Troy

    Too many of us spend money we haven’t earned to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t even like.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I am pretty much a hard sell. If I want something then I go out and buy it and do to worry to much about the price. So I went out a bought 24 pair of orange tee shirts. The gives me enough for a bit over three weeks, which is my normal wash load. I ust was tireed of white tee shirts and I hange them daily. Now jeans and work shirts I can wear for a week or ore. Socks are anothr thing that I chage daily. As I woe indoors on my computer I just dont get outer clothing dirty or very worn for a long time.

    But unless I want something, I am not even interested. I dont care if it is on sale at half cost. I don’t care that it is popular with so many people or that it is the latest fad. Even on my tee-shirts and socks. I only replace them every five or six years. [Grin] My out fits don’t vary much, just the number of layers. I would wear the same thing to a White House Dinner. I a a stubborn old cuss. [Grin]

  • Lycia Pearson

    Just read something -to precise-, It is more worriing that the personal developmental frame is also high jacked, it dovetails well with capitalist neoliberal ideologies of growth and individualism. Buying a shampoo marketed ‘because your worth it ‘is a classic. Self improvement sells uncomfortably well.

  • greygreen

    I work as the head of branding, marketing and identity for a very large public park project in my city. My job is to construct the story of the park – which features native plants, open green space and even monuments recognizing local folk culture and mythology. The reason? To help the city understand why the project is important and why they should support it. There is active dissent at constructing the park because people feel the land could be “better used.” I have to try and bring them around to my way of seeing. I also have to show other cities in America that projects like these are vital to the land, the animals and the people. I market to them, if you like.

    I’ve worked in big marketing departments at publicly traded companies, too. It is difficult when the rhetoric is just sophistry – as you say, to convince someone to buy something. But when the cause is right, I think of “marketing” as storytelling. If you are sincere, honest and informative, people aligned to your ideas will have an affinity for your company or group. I think the best marketing doesn’t sell anything at all – it just speaks plainly.

    Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I like to think of myself as a storyteller, not as a marketer.

    The problem with most of the issues outlined above is actually currency – the false proxy for value in our culture. Currency is desirable because it translates to comfort and pleasure. If something appears to bring you more currency or cost you less currency than a similar product or service, it is perceived to have more value. Those of us less inclined to believe this way of thinking will spend more currency on a less “ideal” but more actually valuable product – chemical-free soap, organic food and handmade crafts to name a few.

    But make no mistake – I can market those to you, too. The “natural”, “preventative” and “health-supporting” vitamins and supplements industry raked in $23B last year.

    By the way, I noticed links to Amazon on your site’s sidebar and advertisement for Monsanto beneath your post (screenshot here: http://goo.gl/n1vGE1). You may want to disable ads on your site if you feel so strongly about unethical marketing.

    • Nimue Brown

      Many thanks for this, inspiring thoughts there. I can’t always see what’s being put on the blog in terms of adverts, but will poke about and see what I can do with it. A tricky one because I suspect I’d have to pay to make the site ad-free and that gets complicated at the moment.

  • greygreen

    yuck! well, either way – thanks for your excellent blog. I check it regularly and always find it a good read, especially when i find what you write challenging.

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