Responsible Affiliate Marketing

Yesterday Seth Godin put together a blog post — “Is Marketing Evil?” — where he argued that marketing is still alive and kicking, and skilled marketers can still “cause people to buy something that they wouldn’t have bought without marketing, vote for someone they might not have considered and support an organization that would have been invisible otherwise.” He also made the point that precisely because of this power of marketing one needs to treat his/her task responsibly, keeping in mind the ones he/she is marketing to. Seth writes: “Just because you can market something doesn’t mean you should. You’ve got the power, so you’re responsible…”  The American Marketing Association’s “Code of Ethics” (1984) stresses exactly the same point. Here’s a quote from it:

Marketers must accept responsibility of their activities and make every effort to ensure that their decisions, recommendations, and actions function to identify, serve, and satisfy all relevant publics: customers, organizations, and society.

The above statement is to be treated in its entirety, not segmentally as often is the case. Additionally, the responsible approach is to be applied to all types of marketing, affiliate marketing included.

In the past, I personally marketed things that I did not really believe in, or wasn’t much concerned about the impact my marketing may have. Nothing extreme — like Godin’s examples of persuading kids to start smoking or lying “to people in ways that cause disastrous side effects” — but still. I was not much concerned about what I was promoting until I had a discussion with a fellow affiliate marketer that told me about Seth Godin’s writing on the topic. His yesterday’s post reminded me that I need to blog about it too. In light of it, I would like to call all affiliate marketers to responsible marketing as well. “Just like every powerful tool, the impact comes from the craftsman, not the tool,” writes Godin. Let’s not forget it, and use the power responsibly.

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