Every once in a while some career marketing exec will have a blinding flash of conscience, and declare that they're quitting the rat race and taking their expertise to a nonprofit where it can do some good for the world. That's not usually what happens. Usually, a marketing exec surveying the fundamental emptiness of their career will have that same twinge of conscience, and decide that the way to solve it is to bring some real do-gooding purpose into the marketing industry. On that note, allow me to introduce you to "purpose-based marketing," just the latest futile quest by a prominent career adman! Jim Stengel is retiring as head of marketing at P&G—the world's biggest advertiser—and starting up his own marketing firm that he says is about "defining what a company does — beyond making money — and how it can make its customers' lives better." Though the WSJ describes this approach as "newfangled," it's been around for years. You know what the ceiling is on the market for this type of thing? The ceiling is how much extra leftover cash companies have to throw around after they do their real marketing, which has the goal of making money. Nothing "beyond making money" comes about until the "making money" part is accomplished. Corporate social responsibility is considered a luxury product. Which is why Jim Stengel's firm is doomed, according to his less conscience-plagued peers:
This approach is "not going to save your bacon in this tough world," says Jack Trout, president of Trout & Partners, a marketing-strategy firm in Old Greenwich, Conn. Consumers are "going for the cheaper guy now."