Like Lincoln contemplating the sacrifice of soldiers at Gettysburg, we too feel that the acts of heroism we have witnessed are far above our poor power to add or detract. As marketers, however, we need to understand and assert that marketing still matters.
"Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts."
--U.S. President George W. Bush
In these extraordinary times, it's difficult to focus on business. The shock and horror that you and I felt when we first heard reports of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington still linger. Our usual concerns of branding and return on investment (ROI) seem small and unimportant in comparison to this tragedy and the heroism of those who gave their lives to save others. Like Lincoln contemplating the sacrifice of soldiers at Gettysburg, we too feel that the acts of heroism we have witnessed are far above our poor power to add or detract. As marketers, however, we need to understand and assert that marketing still matters.
President Bush has spoken of the world facing a great struggle between good and evil. Others have cited a clash between civilization and barbarism. I believe that what we face is a conflict between freedom and oppression.
In "The Wealth of Nations," Adam Smith describes how the invisible hand of economic self-interest guides a capitalist economy and produces greater wealth than any central decision maker can. Every single transaction between a willing buyer and seller increases the wealth of the nation and the world.
Marketing plays a critical role in the functioning of free markets. We marketers devote our professional lives to creating, refining, and selling products and services. Marketing is about giving buyers more and better choices, which ultimately benefits the buyer, the seller, and the entire economy. If you want to imagine the desolation of a world without marketing, simply talk to citizens of the former Soviet Union who can still remember the days of state-run monopolies and food lines.
The terrorists who attacked the United States knew this fact and struck against America's -- and in fact the world's -- economy, as well as its political power. We cannot allow them to succeed. We are different from those attackers because we believe in economic as well as political freedom. As a matter of principle, marketers must continue to provide freedom of choice in the marketplace.
In addition, if the world does engage in a war against terrorism, the human and economic cost will be great. While marketers may have little power to affect the human cost of this battle, we have a vital role to play in creating the wealth and resources it will take to crush terrorism. We must ensure that those who are in harm's way have the resources they need to accomplish their mission with a minimum loss of life. That means continuing to pursue wealth creation as aggressively as we did before.
In this new kind of war, all of us, whether we are military or civilian, American or Middle Eastern, are combatants and potential casualties. Let us fight the best way we know how and let our enemies know that marketing still matters.
Other ways you can help -- not just as marketers but as human beings:
Editor's note: For more on the impact of the September 11 attack, check the special section of internet.com's E-Commerce/Marketing Channel, The Trade Center Disaster: Industry Response.
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Chris and his work have been featured in Fortune, the Financial Times, and the New York Times. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School.
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