I’ve had some interesting conversations with my dad over the years, and one of the most memorable and recurring topics has to do with my current profession.
I’ve been working on enterprise online marketing programs for nearly a decade now, and while I enjoy the immense challenge that the ever-shifting sands of the internet provide as well as the fairly solid compensation this growing field has afforded me there has always been a lingering concern that has haunted me from time to time. That concern has to do with the fact that, at times, I have helped market brands and products that aren’t exactly benevolent in nature (some financial and pharmaceutical outfits from my agency days immediately come to mind).
My father – who busted his butt selling cars for 40 years to support our family – insists that my first concern should be ensuring the financial security of my wife and young son. Moreover, he explains that the world is far from perfect and that I’m not ultimately responsible for all of the good or bad actions of a large organization. I understand where he’s coming from, since he’s basically a first-generation immigrant who committed himself to doing whatever it took to provide a better life for me, but for some reason, I’m simply incapable of fully accepting his point of view.
Fortunately, I’ve landed at an organization that while admittedly a fierce, consumer-minded, online shopping machine is also an organization that sports a huge corporate heart. In just a few short months I’ve witnessed them giving a large award to an employee that had the moral fiber to return a diamond wedding ring to a customer that had accidentally dropped said ring into a return box. I’ve also discovered that they made a commitment to creating a work-at-home program for customer service reps, which allows them to have additional flexibility in their lives while simultaneously allowing the corporation to cut costs and thereby keep said customer service jobs in the US instead of outsourcing them. Lastly, I’m set use one of two dedicated “community service” PTO days to give back to the community, on HSN’s dime.
Mind you, my current employer is not the only company with a story worth believing in. I’ve come across many over the years. One that often comes to mind is Stihl power tools. I can’t speak for their German world headquarters, but I can tell you that their US operation is one of the most well-run organizations I’ve ever come across. And perhaps more importantly, they are one of the most humane operations I’ve ever seen. They’re fiercely loyal to their employees, treat their regional dealers like family, obsess over picking agency partners that will stay onboard for life, and support a variety of extremely noble initiatives.
So what’s this have to do with marketing strategy you ask?
Well it’s simple. For starters, it’s much easier to get motivated to come to work in the morning (and stay late at night) when you believe in the brand you work for. And just in case that’s not enough for you, the secondary benefit is that companies with this altruistic ethic facilitate successful marketing.
It’s a lot easier to execute successful multi-channel marketing campaigns and build social and SEO authority when the organization you’re promoting is involved in beautiful campaigns like Pitney Bowes’ Holiday Mail for Heroes (a joint venture with the Red Cross) and are generally admired for their approach to treating their employees and the community at large.
On the flip side, achieving successful results is a hell of a lot harder when your brand is responsible killing things or oppressing entire communities or nations (and no, I’m not going to link to specific examples. If you’re curious do some research and find out who some of the real bad guys are).
Granted, I understand that my dad’s advise is valuable, because not everyone can afford to work in a virtuous industry or for a virtuous company. At the end of the day, you have to do whatever it takes to move forward and support yourself and your loved ones.
However, if you’re faced with the choice, always opt for the brand you can believe in. It will be easier to achieve long-term marketing ROI, and if you’re like me, you’ll likely have the added benefit of sleeping a whole lot better at night.