Would you make and sell more of it, or have nothing to do with it?
The ethical choice is to have nothing to do with it, you say?
But hold on.
The question gets at something deeper: what is value? Who determines what value is? How do you put a value on value?
Let’s take each of these questions in turn.
Surely, the only way to determine if something is of value is to find out if someone is willing to pay for it.
If no one is willing to pay anything for it, it isn’t of (monetary) value (that high-school diary you’ve held on to is of sentimental value to you, but is unlikely to find buyers unless you’re a celebrity). You might make a piece of art that to you is a masterpiece, and your friends may even coo admiringly about it, but if no one is willing to pay cold cash for it, monetarily, it’s not so hot.
By the same reasoning, if someone is willing to pay for something that in your eyes has no value, then both you and they are probably better off going with their opinion. Why burst their bubble?
In fact, if you try to educate them by telling them they’re wasting their money on something that has no value, they’ll hate you for it.
So who determines value? Yes, value lies in the eye of beholder. Let it rest there.
There are plenty of people who see no reason to pay a premium for the value in a Louis Vuitton bag, Evian water, and a Mercedes.
But there are also plenty who do. And how much value they place on these products is reflected in how much they’re willing to pay for them. And how can you argue with them? They see enough value in the product to sacrifice their hard-earned money paying for it.
But if you’re in the no-value-in-a-Louis-Vuitton-bag camp, then you might argue that there isn’t any “real” value in a Louis Vuitton bag. That value is created by marketing – it is all “perceived” value – it’s just marketing.
You’d be right; at least partially: marketing does contribute to creating value – indeed, that is the job description of marketing: to create perceived value.
But does that make the value created any less “real”?