Viewpoint: Marketing: The Missing Ingredient in Social Entrepreneurship

Thursday, April 2, 2015

I have been asked to teach a course in Marketing for the esteemed Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship Program at USC. While I look at this as a great opportunity. I also recognize it is an enormous challenge. Why? Even though many profess a deep knowledge of these subjects, both are not well understood. Business people tend to look at social entrepreneurs as bleeding heart do-gooders that waste their time chasing after lost causes. Moreover, social entrepreneurs tend to view profit-seeking business people as money-grubbing and selfish with little concern about the greater good. Even worse, they tend to view marketers as slimy, sleazy liars. So why do intelligent people wanting to use their intelligence to solve the world’s social problems tend to shun marketing?

Many culprits

There are many reasons for this negative view of marketing. Here are just a few of them.

  1. Our culture disparages it. From Arthur Miller’s classic, Death of A Salesman, to Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, and the TV hit Mad Men, marketers are frequently depicted in a negative light.
  2. Many universities don’t teach it. Many academics think it is beneath them and often look down upon marketing as a soft subject. Some view selling as a mortal sin. Those that do offer courses in sales typically hire adjunct professors from outside academia to teach it.
  3. Most have learned on the job. Since there are few good places to learn, too many marketing people learn on the job from bosses that have acquired bad habits. This tends to perpetuate the negative stereotypes about marketing and selling.
  4. No quality control or licensing standards. Unlike CPAs, lawyers, architects, and doctors, marketing has no quality control or licensing standards that require passing comprehensive exams. As a result, the marketing profession is populated by a wide range of people with varying skills and ethics – from slimy, sleazy liars to some of the most professional and talented people in the world. Of course, when stereotypes are formed, “stereotypers” tend to use examples from the bottom of the barrel.
  5. Fear of rejection. Those that tend to be more intelligent and socially-conscious (the ones who gravitate to social entrepreneurship) tend to be more sensitive to rejection – a natural part of the sales process. The fear of rejection is often given as a reason why so many shun marketing/sales.

Given these misunderstandings and the fact that marketing is a critically important function to the success of any enterprise – social or not – what is the solution?

Source: The Huffington Post (link opens in a new window)

marketing and advertising, social enterprise