Wed, November 01 2006

Is marketing slimy?

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Q: Is it slimy to apply marketing to nonprofits?

A: Heck no!

1. Marketing is a tool.  Tools aren’t good or evil.  They are morally neutral methods that can be used for noble reasons or not.  Marketing a good cause is a noble endeavor.

2. As people with a cause, we’re in the business of persuasion.  Marketing is a way to be more convincing so that we’re better at persuading people to buckle up, donate, sign a petition, eat healthily, etc.  Marketing isn’t “manipulation,” it’s a way of doing what we already do, better. 

3. Marketing is respectful.  Refusing to take into account the audience’s perspective and talking to people as if you’re hollering into a mission megaphone is not respectful.  Asking people what they care about and then relating our cause to their values is respectful.  Good marketing is a conversation, and that’s much less slimy than a soliloquy.

4. Marketing is efficient.  What is immoral is slimy is not doing good marketing and wasting precious taxpayer or donor dollars on dealing with social issues ineffectively.

But, as I say in the book, there is a line.

We have to be true to ourselves.  Marketing allows us to meet our audiences where they are, physically and mentally, but it does not require us to lose our own way.  We should stay true to our mission, represent ourselves honestly, and promise only what we can deliver.  In that way, we gain a competitive advantage over all the other folks using marketing for more nefarious ends.


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