Are consumers responsible for the behavior of marketers?

Why does spam exist? Because (some) people respond to it. Why are ineffective pharmaceuticals so heavily marketed? Because (some) people demand that doctors prescribe them. Why are so many local stores struggling? Because so many customers cross the street to the big box stores.

I’ve maintained for years that marketing is so powerful that marketers have to take responsibility for the choices they make. And they do.

But what about us? What about the New York Times reporter who writes an entire column about the cheap grill he bought at Home Depot–he’s upset that it didn’t come with better service… At some level, isn’t he getting what he paid for? And when consumers so often choose the cheapest possible tickets for air travel, aren’t we arguing for a lousy product?

When I go back to a convenient B2B vendor even though they treated me poorly last time, aren’t I complicit in rewarding that attitude?

(And please (!) if you think we need more ads like this or more stores like this or more service like this, go for it… you have the very same power in supporting them as you might in criticizing them. Consumers are also complicit when they fail to support the organizations that they agree with).

Ten years ago, this was a discussion that could be reserved for philosophy class. After all, ten years ago, what could one person do? Today, though, when everyone can be a blogger (as powerful as almost any broadcast journalist with the right story) and when everyone can spread ideas, what’s our excuse?