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How marketing can be a force for good

Paul Skinner, founder of the Agency of the Future and Pimp My Cause, shares his views on marketing for world changers in an article for the Internet Advertising Bureau UK.

Paul Skinner shares his views with the IAB

Three major professions have severely blotted their copybooks in recent times. One after the other the public has been given more than good reason to lose faith in the financiers who engineered global economic distress, the politicians busy mending their duck houses and flipping their second homes, and the phone-hacking journalists stealing their headlines from the tapped voice mails of the victims of crime.

But if we look around us for a profession that is equipped with exactly the right skill set to be able to shape the world around us for the better, could we find that actually, it is marketing that holds the keys to successfully identifying needs, formulating solutions and mobilising action around our shared aspirations?

I have always been a fan of marketing as much as I've been a marketer. And so while that enthusiasm has often driven me to offer my skills to causes that I believe in, a couple of years ago I started to reflect on the fact that most of my opportunities to do this had come about in somewhat random ways. I wondered whether I could make a greater contribution by instead creating a platform to make it quicker and easier for any marketer or agency to access this kind of opportunity according to their own goals and interests.

I had literally no budget at all to do it and no one had asked me to do it – but what is interesting is how that simple change of focus from what I could deliver myself to what I could support others in achieving took my interest in harnessing the power of marketing for good to places that I couldn't have imagined before I began.

In the second week the Pimp My Cause web platform was live, a heritage museum in Vancouver connected through the platform with the marketing director of an auctioneer, with exactly the expertise sector knowledge and insight they needed and who was also based in Vancouver, a city that I've never had the pleasure of even visiting.

And that unexpected match set the tone for the two years which have followed, during which Pimp My Cause has gone on to support over 750 charities and social enterprises with well over £1m of pro bono marketing, with members in over 30 countries, with over 100 case studies of contributed films, campaigns, websites, and strategies featured on our website. All of which is made possible by people and organisations including some of the top brands, agencies and professional bodies in marketing.

I've learned an enormous amount from the causes and the marketers who have made Pimp My Cause such an exciting venture. But perhaps the greatest insight I've gained from it is that the nature of the challenges we face is changing. We may all have problems, but the interesting thing is that increasingly the kinds of challenges we face are problems that we can’t solve on our own.

As natural visionaries, connectors and mobilisers, this creates enormous opportunities for marketers to contribute to tackling society’s most complex problems and by doing so to increase the public’s enthusiasm for working with us.

Increasingly, the role of the marketer will be to develop a more sophisticated view of the societal contribution they, their brands and organisations make, and to engage a broader constituency of collaborators, partners and society at large in working together towards goals that we can all buy into.

The extent to which marketing takes up this challenge may measure the degree to which the profession lives up to its highest strategic calling.

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