Marketers: Why aren’t you changing the world yet?

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Marketers: It’s time to take up the mantle of societal change, and use our skills to make the world a better place. Here’s how.


 

Sometimes I doubt my ability to change the world. As a marketer, I’ve watched with envy as politicians, scientists, researchers, economists, statisticians and civil servants make bold, data-based statements or pass meaningful policies, lamenting my own inability to combat redlining in urban neighborhoods or to prove that yes, indeed, climate change is caused by humans. Marketers spend a lot of time launching creative campaigns and moving the needle on revenue for our clients – why not use those same skills to also improve the world that we inhabit?

If you’ve had these feelings, take heart: There are many skills that marketers bring to the table that are desperately needed in the worlds of politics and activism. I’m writing today, in the wake of Earth Day and marches for science around the world, to encourage you to bring your marketing skills to bear beyond your day job. We have skills that others don’t, including:

  • Marketers know how to communicate complicated messages: As many of us learned during the 2016 presidential election, complicated narratives don’t win races. People need to hear plain, direct, emotional appeals before there is resonance – and unfortunately, we live in a world where issues aren’t that simple. Marketers can help distill complicated issues into digestible, actionable messages in ways that non-marketers can’t.
  • Marketers know how to make things cool (or not): Not every fight can – or needs to be – won in Washington. Consumers have enormous amounts of power when they speak with their wallets. In February, Nordstrom announced it would no longer carry the Ivanka Trump brand, not because the store was making a political statement, but because it was responding to a drop in sales of the clothing line. Marketers can be the catalysts for not just changes in attitude, but changes in action that can take advantage of our capitalist economy and bypass the need for legislation or basic ethics in government.
  • Marketers know how to measure success: Any marketing analytics aficionados out there? Bring your skills to a nonprofit and help them understand how their cause is finding traction through various channels, including social media, email campaigns, events and more. Many nonprofits simply don’t have the experience or the tools to track successes or failures, so they blindly navigate their campaigns without any ability to adjust strategy based on real-time feedback.

So my message, marketers, is this: Just because you aren’t practitioners of hard science doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. Are scientists the best at formulating accurate yet consumable messages for the public based on complex research? Should social workers be executing and measuring social media campaigns to bring attention to poverty issues in their community? Can an economist translate data into action effectively? Rather than lament our “softer science” skills, I’d argue that marketers today are more important than ever. There are countless opportunities for marketers to jump in and make a difference.

Yes, marketers. You can change the world. Let’s start now.

 

Looking for a place to start volunteering with your marketing skills? Idealist.org and Catchafire.org are great places to start.