The question ignited a discussion that absolutely exploded with insight. “What promotional products would be good to carry an anti-gang message for middle and high school kids?“, asked a member of the online discussion group.

Are you kidding me? ……… NONE!

I believe I put it best when I wrote, ” … might as well hand out bulls-eyes imprinted with “Gangs Suck” for children to wear on their back.” Seriously, putting an anti-gang message on something for children to carry around or wear – is a bad, bad idea. The good news is, the discussion brought to light a couple of insights we as marketers should keep in mind in order to keep the government, advocacy and activist groups out of our business.

1) When we take advantage of marketing opportunities, we must also recognize our tremendous responsibility. While we may have responsibility to shareholders, bottom line and market share, we must also remember that we have a responsibility to our industry and to the publics that are affected by our marketing efforts.

2 )Place emphasis on message not product. In the example above, the question, “What product do we put an anti-gang message on?” is product focused. However, had the question been, “What do we want to accomplish?” the focus could have been placed on promoting good as opposed to gang-bashing.

In an effort to not paint bulls eyes on the backs of non-gang children, many of us agreed that before worrying about which products would be appropriate, that it would be best to first change the focus of the thinking. Instead of thinking anti-gang we felt that the focus should be more along the lines of pro education, pro safety, pro future, pro self esteem or something else that doesn’t threaten the gangs.

One line of thinking is be, “Want to keep kids from joining gangs? Give them something else to join.” Now you’ve got the seed of an idea that could make for a campaign that could involve parents, band and athletic boosters, the school, school clubs, businesses, scouting, 4-H, social and civic organizations … the entire community.

For marketers, the question is, “Want to keep consumers from buying from your competitors? Give them a reason to buy from you.” Give them something to belong to.

Finally, as a public service, I want to re-emphasize the responsibility we shoulder as marketers. To that end I share with you a thought I cannot shake since I first read, “What promotional products would be good to carry an anti-gang message for middle and high school kids?

That neat, fun, do-dad with the wrong message on it … could get someone killed.

Have a nice day:)

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