A bit on the late side and slightly hounded by a pigeon in the event space, I stumbled into the trendy Kruitfabriek in Vilvoorde. And just like the confused pigeon, I also found myself being the odd one out, as the single content creator in a sea of digital marketers – something I’d never experienced before.
“Well, that’s a good thing,” I thought, because hadn’t the whole point of me signing up been to get a better idea of who you (i.e. marketers) are exactly? What keeps you awake at night, why are you always so so busy, and what kind of content support are you really looking for? Armed with these questions, Sherlock Anneleen set out to investigate. 🕵️♀️
I very quickly ended up in a bubble of hyper-specific, jargon-laden marketing speak:
- About the regulations on GDPR, which aren’t too bad in Belgium, but you still have to be careful with all those ‘consent’ buttons.
- About how survey questions always have a certain bias.
- About the 28 privacy questions it’s best to ask potential data research partners.
- About the Metaverse and how the creators – in their own opinion, at least – are engaged in responsible innovation. (Really?)
It’s quite interesting to observe you in your natural habitat. I was on the edge of my seat: what did you think of all the information being served up here? Did you agree with it? Which aspects did you have difficulty with? Because after all, it’s easier said than done – right?
But at the end of the day, I didn’t hear anyone ask any (critical) questions at all.
Not even one.
I mainly just saw the growing fear in your eyes:
- I thought I had all that GDPR stuff under control, but actually it looks like I have so much more to learn!
- I thought that my customer survey was okay, but now I’m going to have to completely revise it!
- I thought X, but what about Y?
So it wasn’t proving to be a relaxing break from the office at all; your to-do list had just grown alarmingly longer! Ethics seemed like the last subject I would dare to raise here.
Once we started networking, I told attendees about Blue Lines; how we are a translation agency that, more recently, has also become involved in content creation. “It’s a question of giving online marketers a bit more breathing space,” I mumbled somewhat uncomfortably. Little did I know that ‘a bit more breathing space’ was a serious understatement.
One marketer told me how absurd it is sometimes to post thousands of vacancies and make TikTok videos on a massive scale to appeal to ‘young people’ for new jobs, while you aren’t even sure whether your own marketing team will make it through another year because of the numerous cuts.
Another secretly whispered to me how uncertain you sometimes feel about all that GDPR business. And that your creativity is being crushed before it has even been given a chance; that came up in several conversations.
Your stories clearly indicated a lack of control. As an individual marketer, how can you get a grip on a cumbersome company in which you are only one of the numerous cogs in the wheel? I hunched over my fries with ketchup, nodding at all the concerns you shared. Being a marketer is apparently difficult enough, let alone an ethical one…
Nevertheless, my conclusion remained the same: what you need is breathing space – mental wiggle room so you can think about change.
This restful place would give you the courage to question more: “What the hell am I doing?” and “How can I work more ethically when checking off my to-dos?” In answer to the latter question: not by taking on even more tasks, I would argue, but by tackling what you already do a little differently. And thus becoming a digital ‘force for good’, with no lame gimmicks and dubiously rounded edges.
Hear me out.
You know, I think it’s more in the little things:
- Having the courage to ask a critical question about privacy in your next meeting.
- Being extra alert to the mental well-being of your team and (potential) customers. What is useful content for sharing online, and what constitutes digital litter?
- No blatant copying of things from competitors. If that’s how they do it, maybe you could test it some other way?
- Being bold enough to flag up a mismatch in your company. What we are saying here online does not tie in with what we do offline!
- Having the courage to scrap to-dos because certain marketing activities are simply no longer in line with the times.
Because ethical marketing goes way beyond mere GDPR compliance: it’s a state of mind. The good news: this is something you can achieve today, without mountains of extra work. Really, I promise!
Just breathe in, and breathe out.
You can do this ethical thing!