President Obama is meeting today with executives from credit card companies. In the meetings, it is reported that Obama is pushing for new consumer protections against the “arbitrary” interest rates increases and excessive fees that have seemingly become a tradition in the work of credit card issuers.
Reading about this meeting has me thinking about the marketers that work for these credit card companies. And just for fun we can probably throw marketers at tobacco, alcohol, soda, and likely other companies into the mix. So what is it that I am thinking about these individuals? Simply put, I wonder about the morality of what these companies do. Now, let me say before going further, that I understand everyone needs to make a living, and I’m not taking issue with that. What I am taking issue with are the means these companies use to market themselves to consumers.
Think about how often a credit card issuing company set up a table on your college campus and gave away “free” items for registering for a card. This was when you had little or no money. And now, even, you’re likely still solicited to sign-up for alumni credit cards. Even without the college avenue, no doubt that you’ve been inundated with offers for credit cards in your life. And once you sign-up, then you’re bombarded with pre-printed checks tied to your card, offers for card rewards for spending more, card protection programs (“you’re a bank, shouldn’t you be protecting my account anyway?”), and on and on. I’m not saying credit card issuing companies don’t know how to market. But they have consistently barraged people and enticed them to spend well beyond their means. The moral authority here is certainly lacking.
This is why, as a marketer, I’m a huge proponent of inbound marketing. As opposed to constantly barraging people with your product, and in some cases creating a false need, inbound marketing focuses on letting qualified individuals to find you when they’re in the market for your product or service. No annoying ads, no artificial need creation, nothing of the sort. Using avenues like search engine optimization, social media marketing, and website design and content, you simply optimize your online presence in a way that will allow customers seeking your product or service to find you when they’re ready, and engage with you on their terms. This method, which is going to become the standard in marketing, is helping to restore the integrity and morality to our practice. And, quite honestly, it can be a lot of fun, too.