It's true, corporations are embedded in our society, as are advertising and marketing. In fact, the average American sees some 3000 ads every day. Though this is quite an insane figure, it does not mean advertising should be stopped. It shouldn't; our society is built upon it.
We simply have to keep it all in check.
As some of you may know, I am employed by Mosaic, a marketing company. My clients are Dell, Microsoft and Intel. To be specific, I work in Experiential Marketing (also known as XM), which is a system of marketing that aims at making a product, and ultimately, a brand name, an experience for the consumer. To give you an example of what XM entails, let's look at Red Bull. Have you ever seen those cars with the Red Bull can on top of them? That's an XM team. I remember I was once in a park playing cricket with some buddies when the Red Bull car pulled up and gave us all free samples of Red Bull. Before that day, I had never tried Red Bull. I loved it. The game stopped and everyone took a Red Bull break. The simple fact that someone came in a funny-looking car and physically gave me a Red Bull made the entire ordeal an experience me. In the future I will associate Red Bull with the positive experience I had on that day. This is what XM is all about.
I essentially do the same with Dell. I go out and I set up tables, hand out flyers, organize giveaways and get the word out about deals and discounts available through Dell. I tell people about how Dell is the leading name among PC manufacturers; I tell them about our latest technologies and how Dell computers are 1/3 the price of their Apple equivalents. I tell them about warranty options and hard drive upgrades and Windows 7. I love my job. I love it because it pays well, I make my own schedule, and I get to work with people. Most importantly, I love my job because I can help people make more informed decisions.
Even before Dell became a client, I've always respected the company. Their marketing has always been fact-based, as opposed to Apple's "if you're hip and fresh you are a Mac; if you are old, fat and boring you are a PC". Lately, however, Dell's marketing focus has changed.
Over the last two months, Dell's own marketing team (I'm on Mosaic's team) has launched a site called DellLounge. As 3Suns put it earlier, this is a "corporate-cool" website, aimed at 18-24 year olds, and I hate it. The site is all about celebrity gossip, professional athletics, music concerts and parties. Quite blatantly, Dell is trying to associate itself with today's "popular culture". I think this is despicable.
Though I hated this site from the day I heard about it, I was okay with its existence because I didn't really think it was a serious marketing effort. However, when I heard that Mosaic's program was going to be merged with the DellLounge program, I was enraged.
Personally, I myself am still in the "18-24 year old" age group, and though I can understand what Dell is trying to do, I don't think it will work. I myself saw right through all the pop culture bullshit to the real message: "DELL IS COOL!". If I can see through this, anyone can. I called my boss and told him: "This is a bad idea, and I refuse to take any part in promoting it." We then had a lengthy discussion about the site's pros and cons, and ultimately got nowhere. He insisted there was no ethical issue and that the site was simply a way of reaching an untapped market, while I insisted it was blatant brainwashing that was both unethical and unnecessary. A few days later, my boss decided to quit his position and go back to Nursing school.
Today, I spoke with my new boss. It was pretty much the same story. Eventually, we stopped arguing and I told him I would continue putting my best effort into my work, though I wouldn't focus on the DellLounge website. I also asked him to voice my complaints to his higher-ups if he ever had a chance to. He agreed.
The point I'm trying to make is marketing does not have to be evil, and you don't have to "sell out" to be competitive in a capitalistic market. In fact, by being competitive, you can avoid having to "sell out". The Green Movement is a good example of this. Through marketing, companies are making people environmentally conscious, and the effect (though I don't even believe Global Warming exists) is generally positive. I enjoyed marketing for Dell because I didn't have to sell my soul; I didn't have to lie and put down the competition to get sales. I simply had to get the information out there. This is the way it should be. When people start buying products because of who or what they associate the brand name with, they're not using their heads. Instead, marketing should be about telling the facts, and letting the customer decide which competitor is best. This keeps companies on their toes, keeps prices down and advances technology. This is the way it should be, and not just in the consumer market.
Political campaigns also rely heavily on brand association marketing. Republicans like to associate their party with "Family Values" and such, while Democrats generally try to associate with "Positive Change". The day this style of marketing starts to work and people start voting based on which candidate's tag-lines they liked best is the day our Republic dies.
I'm not hesitant to say I am an asset to both Mosaic and Dell. I doubled the last guy's sales figures for both May and June, and I really enjoyed doing it. I would love to continue working for Mosaic, but I am ready to resign my position if they try to make me pawn off this "Dell Lounge" garbage to my peers. The simple fact that I am willing and able to compete with my peers in the job market means I don't have to "sell out". Similarly, the simple fact that Dell makes great products should be enough to keep them from having to "sell out" and resort to brainwashing....
Some day, I suppose.