Marketing Doesn’t Mean Manipulation

A debate topic being tossed around our office right now is marketing (Is it a good thing? Is it evil?). I’m willing to bet we’re not the only ones arguing.

Some people have majorly negative connotations when the words “advertising” or “marketing” come up in conversation, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, perceptions about marketing are being shaped by brands that never should have been in the conversation to begin with. Some companies will do whatever it takes to make a buck, chasing any “prospective customer” alive. (cough…Volkswagen)

Companies that chase the almighty dollar first and foremost tend to get themselves in trouble with their marketing (and sometimes even business practices) because they value short-term gain over long-term, quality customer relationships.

Influence over Manipulation

There’s a distinction to be made between influencing people and manipulating them.

Ultimately, all of good business building comes back to a set of ethically-based values. Strong values prepare companies to navigate the muddy waters of influence and perception with authenticity and integrity.

  • Influence means winning people to your point of view through honesty, truth, and sound reasoning. Companies that influence their tribes communicate from rooted identities — telling authentic stories that draw the right crowd.
  • When I think of manipulation, I usually think of lying, cheating, and stealing. Companies without strong values will probably end up doing some pretty shady stuff to convince people to buy their stuff and things.

Marketing was never meant to be the crystal ball that distorts reality until your company seems perfect. No surprise, that’s how a lot of people use it — but those are the people tumbling down the slippery slope of turning influence into manipulation.

Don’t say one thing and mean another.

Marketing, at its best, presents the remarkable aspects of your brand in a way that’s engaging to the right audience. (If there’s nothing remarkable about your company, we need to have a different conversation.)

The Right Thing

At the end of the day, it’s about authenticity and ethics. You can’t lie to people and call it marketing. You can’t stalk people and call it advertising. Don’t be that brand.

Define your audience. Tell relevant stories.

Treat people like people — not checks to cash in.