The Moral High Ground Is Expensive Real Estate

This week the CEO of Salesforce changed the company’s user policy to ban the sale of various weapons through its software.

“The pressure Salesforce is exerting on those retailers — barring them from using its technology to market products, manage customer service operations and fulfill orders — puts them in a difficult position. Camping World, for example, spends more than $1 million a year on Salesforce’s e-commerce software, according to one analyst estimate. Switching to another provider now could cost the company double that to migrate data, reconfigure systems and retrain employees.”

Camping World & other vendors like it are now facing a costly choice: stop selling these weapons through Salesforce, or switch to a software with a more lenient policy. Either way, they’re going to lose a bunch of revenue. But they’re not the only ones to lose.

Salesforce loses too. If those vendors walk, they lose millions of dollars in revenue. They’re a publicly traded company, so you can bet shareholders are going to be asking some pretty pointed questions too.

This is why the moral high ground is so expensive — it ACTUALLY costs something.

Mouthing platitudes on the Internet sounds nice, but it doesn’t cost anything. Pledging money to charities costs a bit more, but most big companies have a budget for donations — it’s not uncomfortable to take a stand when the money is already allocated.

Marketers have a tremendous responsibility to our audiences, and hear me when I say this:

Marketers are the most influential people in the world today.

As this piece points out, marketing happens behind the scenes of everyday life, and we have a profound responsibility to the people we are marketing to. If we help sell something we don’t believe in, we are complicit. If we market something we know is ethically flawed, we are to blame when it catches on.

We are fully equipped to make people buy things. But even more than that, we are equipped to make them change their minds. To make them change their behaviour. To influence their self-perception, their relationships, their health, their wealth, their goals. There has never been a time in history when marketers have been able to directly impact so many people, so easily.

Please, take that responsibility seriously.

Turn down the jobs that make you feel a bit sick in the stomach. Say no to the clients who ring your alarm bells. Don’t promote products you wouldn’t let your family use.

I understand that turning down money is anathema to entrepreneurs and freelancers. It goes against every cell in our bodies — we work HARD to bring money in the door, and to send it back out again? It makes you want to puke. And when you really need the money, the stress of it might actually make you puke.

But the moral high ground is so expensive because it’s worth it.

When we say no to money in service of a greater good, that’s when our influence starts to gain momentum — when it starts to generate real, positive change — because instead of money, we’re left with time.

Time to think about what we DO want to support. Time to write the pieces that will truly serve our readers. Time to reach out to prospects that you would give your left arm to work with. That’s where we do our best work. That’s how movements start. That’s how we change the world for the better, one post, one project, one person at a time.

So please, start saving up, so that when your time comes (and it will), you can take the moral high ground.