Could marketing be a noble profession?

Marketing

Could marketing be a noble profession?

At Raven, where a third of the staff has some kind of background or experience in journalism, nearly everyone agrees that journalism is a noble profession. That’s especially true when to-the-death dedicated employees of traditional media deal with this every day:

But those of us in marketing (well, mostly me) wonder if our new professions could also be considered noble. Not only are we marketers, we’re marketers for Internet marketing software.

Perhaps it’s not noble in the same way, but somehow? After all, the product we market helps people who help people find and distribute information online. Helping people is noble. Dissemination of information is noble. So marketing is noble, right?

Or wrong?

So I asked you.

noble-profession

These are some of the answers I received, via Twitter, email and IM:

An Internet marketer

“Yes. Period. Nothing happens if things don’t get sold.”

A former journalist/current marketer

“Short answer? Nope.

“I’m not saying all marketers are Gordon Gekko, but I would define ‘noble’ as doing work that’s crucial to society; meaningful and lasting; or glorifying to the spirit of humanity.

“By those standards, marketing fails the test. What we do can be important, but it’s not crucial like the work of doctors, teachers or firefighters. I’ve read a lot of marketing blog posts that I found beneficial or helpful, but will they stand the test of time like great works of art, poetry or music? Unlikely.

“Now, can marketing have its own elements of nobility? Definitely. Marketing enjoys a lot of creativity and a great clarity of purpose: getting your product or service into the hands of the right people who will benefit from them. That work certainly can be ethical, fulfilling and really meaningful. I truly love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m just not gonna call it noble.”

An IT professional

“Yes, I think it could be as long as it was honest and true. If it’s done with excellence, that in of itself is noble, isn’t it?

A graphic designer

“Professions are made up of people, and people can be noble or they can be scumbags.

“Noble marketers honestly represent a product they believe can help the right customer. Noble marketers establish relationships with consumers based on truth. Scumbag marketers sell garbage to anyone with no regard for honesty or the best interest of the customer. Scumbag marketers are just after the quick buck.

“Sadly, we’ve come to expect lies from marketers so nobility in the profession is much easier to spot.”

An Internet marketer

“I think it can be. I do a lot for helping and saving tigers. Helping anything is noble. It can also not be noble depending on what kind of scumbag one might be.”

A newspaper marketer

“Could—yes. Is—no. Strike that—not yet. As to when and what would it take? I don’t know. But you’ve given me something to think about.”

A third Internet marketer

“I think marketing can absolutely be a noble profession.

“I like to use Apple daily when it comes to a company that just nails everything they touch. Their products are gorgeous, their attitude is spot on and their marketing is brilliant. While marketers aren’t saving lives, we can help showcase tools that CAN save lives—and showcase it in a way that will inspire people to do good. Apple had a commercial out a while ago when Facetime launched, that showed how valuable a tool like that can be. If you were in the military and your wife was having a kid, it allows you to be right there in the room with your wife, as you are overseas. Most people forget how powerful our technology is now-a-days, and even though nearly everyone owns an iPhone—they might forget the true power behind it. Videocalling is pretty cool stuff when you think about it.

“Marketing is all about telling a story. If you tell it right … it can be a very noble thing. Certainly money can play a role, but often times that isn’t the goal of the marketer—it’s to inspire.”

A former marketer

“Whether you think marketing is a noble profession depends on your definition of “noble.” To me, monarchy aside, it means “having high moral principles or ideals.”

“Looking at marketing against that definition, though, I can’t say that it fits (or doesn’t) in all cases. It would really depend on what you’re marketing. Marketing a hospital’s charitable services, for example, might have better odds of being considered noble than marketing cigarettes.

“Although, honestly, in today’s day and age I’m not sure anything qualifies as a noble profession—how many doctors do you know who would do their job if they weren’t getting paid (handsomely) for it? There are individuals out there who work jobs solely out of a desire to help others or serve a high moral purpose of some sort, but I’m not sure marketing falls into that category (plus, one person’s morality can always be another’s oppression).

“At its core, marketing is designed to drive people to purchase a good or service. That’s not to say I don’t think it’s important, fun or necessary… Just not necessarily noble.”

A social media marketer

“I’ve had some people ask me if there are any products I WOULDN’T work on. My personal set of beliefs and convictions have led me to say yes to that before. I believe that’s one indicator that Marketing IS a noble profession, because there IS an element of ethics and standards.

“Another point we often fail to mention: great Marketing can motivate apathetic people to do EXCELLENT things. Some of the work I’ve seen for charity is utterly stunning, and for an excellent cause. I’m working now on a project using social ethnography to research Parkinson’s disease patients and caregivers—if any aspect of my research makes even one of those patients’ lives easier, I’d say that’s pretty noble.

“So I guess the answer is “it can be.” Marketing is a tool, and just like any other tool it can be used for good or ill. We have great power as marketers, and as you know, with great power comes great responsibility.”

A developer

“Yes. Because businesses do need to get the word out as to what they do.

“10 years ago, you couldn’t reach out to a company without writing to them. It felt like they were untouchable.

“Now business can communicate with customers in a personal manner and develop relationships with them through Twitter, Facebook and email. What makes the new existence of marketing noble is the personal aspect of it, especially for small businesses.

“I feel like we’re in a place now where marketing can be not slimy at all. If you’re slimy now, you’re going to slide down the hill.”

What do you think?

Could marketing be a noble profession?

Do you agree or disagree with anyone?

Has anyone else’s opinion here altered your point of view, even a little?

Comment below or join the conversation on Raven’s Facebook page…which has even more perspectives.

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Arienne Holland is the Director of Marketing and Customer Experience at Raven. She divides her time between outreach, writing, teaching and understanding developers. Before Raven, Arienne spent more than a decade as an editor and graphic designer for Gannett. She was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for team breaking news journalism. She likes bread, books and bourbon.

More about Arienne Holland | @RavenArienne

Tell us what you think

  • robbyslaughter

    You’re welcome.

    So do you have an opinion on my opinion?

  • RavenArienne

    I’m happy to have the perspective of a troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert who takes things out of context on purpose. ;)

  • robbyslaughter

    That we even ask the question illustrates the problem.

    All professions (meaning: “professional” activities, not just stuff people do for money) are noble.

    The only way to be ignoble is to be unprofessional.

    If you’re willing to be unprofessional, you demean the profession.

  • RavenArienne

    Tristan, I have a feeling that those of us who are former journalists have the traditional, narrow definition of noble. It was interesting to me to read the perspectives of people who don’t know or have experience with that definition.

    Also, teaching, medicine and law are the traditional noble professions, guided by a common ethical standard and, as a a whole, desire for the greater good. I’m not sure when things like journalism or government service (firefighter, police officer, etc.) because recognized noble professions, too, or who recognized them as such. Note: I’m not questioning whether or not they should be.

  • http://twitter.com/TigerSharkMusic Tristan Schmid

    Great post, with a great (and rather journalistic!) range of viewpoints.

    My answer? As with many things, “It depends.” It depends on what your definition of “noble.” is. As a former journalist/current marketer myself, I share the opinion of the former journalist/current marketer you quote. “Noble” does not mean making money. Most marketing, I would argue, exists to make money and not do much else.

    However, without marketing, a lot of the positive change that happens in the world would face considerably more difficulty without marketers’ minds powering the messaging. As much as possible, I choose to use my marketing experience for good. But my “good” might not be the next marketers’ “good.”

  • Mike

    we help people that help people………….that is justification enough I think…………..thank you for bringing this new thought to my attention.