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Are Marketers Evil Scumbags?

Before you read this post, please read The Verge's investigational peice on internet scammers.  It's a great peice and the driver of this post.

The Verge ScamDear Popular Culture and The General Public,

Marketers are not evil.  Internet marketers are not evil.  TV advertising as an industry is not evil.  Bad people do bad things, and unscrupulous people do unscrupulous things.  But they aren't marketing and they aren’t marketers, they are scammers.

If a fraudster poses as a physician and harms an unsuspecting community, we do not blame doctors.  We do not blame the broader practice of medicine.  We do not blame the industry.  We do not point fingers other than at the fraudster.

Yet the general media, and in particular the tech industry has no problem calling out scammers as "marketers" or "internet marketers" without any distinction from the thousands of legitimate marketers around the world.  Tone-deaf messaging is blamed on "ad industries" while few notice the massive impact the ad industry has had on their buying behavior.

This weekend's incredibly well researched and thorough investigational piece on The Verge covers all of the dirty tricks of internet scammers.  Yet The Verge editors felt no need to distinguish between ethical marketers and scammers who pose as marketers.  This is a fantastic article highlighting the woes of an underappreciated danger.  But they point the finger at the wrong people and offend an entire industry.

On this Friday's episode of The Vergecast the Verge editorial staff defended their mislabeling of scammers as marketers utilizing a number of invalid defenses, and later admitted that they could have and possibly should have said things differently.  Below are their points, and my proposed counter-points.

  1. They said that the scammers called themselves Internet Marketers.  And they asked, what else should they call them?  

    What about calling them scammers?

  2. The editorial team questioned the overall industry - why isn't the industry calling out these scammers?  

    As someone who has spent a good deal of time in this industry, I can tell you that (a) there are countless posers with no creds claiming to be experts (throw a rock and you hit a social media guru) and (b) nobody has the time or interest to out the many scammers.

    If we were to flip this back to The Verge's technology industry, I could easily name a handful of technology bloggers who take substantial gifts with little disclosure.  They call themselves experts on all things technology related, with little to no expertise beyond the consumer perspective.  

    Is The Verge going after unethical bloggers in their own industry?

Marketing Isn’t Evil, It’s Good

Marketing is the practice of building and developing markets.  In the digital age, this is increasingly about forming valued and trusted relationships.  Marketing has nothing to do with scamming.

TV Ads Don't Work On Me, What A Waste Of Money

If marketing and advertising in particular didn't work, marketers wouldn't invest in it.  The numbers don't lie.  Brands that spend money on TV usually see an uptick in sales.  Brands that form valued relationships with their constituents see increased loyalty and strong sales.  Marketing is real business, it's legitimate business and it's big business.

Marketers that rely on misstatements don't succeed.  They are bad at their practice, even if they call themselves gurus.

Marketers are not snake oil salesmen.  Marketers are not selling scams.  That's why we have the terms "snake oil salesmen" and "scam."  Great marketers deliver exceptional business outcomes using ethical and meaningful communications and market dynamics.

It's time mainstream, responsible properties like The Verge right their wrong.  I've been a reader since their inception.  And I don't appreciate their slap in our face.