Marketers have spammed, lied, deceived, cluttered
and ripped us off for so long, we’re sick of it.
I love coaching Little League baseball.
This is my son’s third year playing and I’ve been fortunate enough to coach his team each year, experiencing first-hand the beauty of playing baseball for no other reason than because it’s fun. When the kids have fun, their parents have fun, and I get to have fun — as a result, I tend to go above and beyond, doing things like writing team newsletters; buying extra training equipment; and organizing a team picnic at the end of the season.
Last year, our first year out of tee ball, with runs and outs being counted and every game having a winner and a loser, our team wasn’t very good, winning only two games while getting blown out badly in several losses. As a team, we had many Bad News Bears moments — including a couple of my own with one particular umpire and one opposing coach — but despite all of that, we always had fun playing, the parents had a good time, and I slept well after every game knowing that we were achieving our primary goal of learning how to play baseball.
Two of the most reassuring moments were the time between the first and second season when my son, out of left field (metaphorically), told me I was a great coach and he loved playing baseball; and a couple of weeks ago, when the girl who earned the game ball asked me to sign it for her!
Working with seven and eight-year-olds who are learning the fundamentals of the game, my philosophy is pretty simple: Pay Attention; Always Hustle; Have Fun.
That’s actually my philosophy of life in general, and whenever possible, I try to apply it to everything I do.
Thanks to the perfect storm that’s hit the magazine publishing world (where I spend my days, and unhealthy chunks of my nights and weekends), I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the radar — industry press, executives and pundits; tracking layoffs, closures and strategic shifts — trying to get my sea legs without falling overboard or abandoning ship, and looking for any opportunity to get my hands on the steering wheel and turn away from the icebergs.
On Sunday, during my first #blogchat (on Twitter), I got into an interesting back-and-forth with Simon Edhouse about social media and his objections to its being targeted by aggressive marketers and self-proclaimed “gurus”. Edhouse equated their activities to spam, noting: “Seeing SM as an [extension] of CRM is the thin end of the corrupt-wedge.”
I countered that misuse of a tool doesn’t mean it’s not a tool, and that ideally: “People determine their desired level of engagement; companies need to respect those terms and act within them.”
I can be pretty cynical, but Edhouse’s militant stance is far more extreme than mine — “Pigs might fly.” — to which I responded: “I have to believe SOME [companies] can/will act responsibly, or else find a new career! ‘Be the change you want to see.'”
While the actual quote is from Gandhi, the reference is to Seth Godin’s book, Tribes, reflecting my strong belief that if you stand for something positive and don’t compromise that stance, you will attract like-minded people and together you can do some good in the world.
Or at your job. Or on the baseball field.
Edhouse’s response was simultaneously gratifying and sobering — “OK… so that may be your point of difference/advantage in this landscape. Push that differentiation vector…” — and brought to mind something else from Godin, a recent post called “Poisoning the Well“:
Marketers have spammed, lied, deceived, cluttered and ripped us off for so long, we’re sick of it.
Which means that even if you have a really good reason, no, you can’t call me on the phone. Which means that even if it’s really important, no, I’m not going to read the instructions. Which means that god forbid you try to email me something I didn’t ask for… you’re trashed. It’s so fashionable to be skeptical now that no one believes you if you attempt to do something for the right reasons.
Selfish short-sighted marketers ruined it for all of us. The only way out, I think, is for a few marketers to so overwhelm the market with long-term, generous marketing that we have no choice but to start paying attention again.
Disintermediation is rapidly changing the way people get information and their expectations for how that information should be made available, and like the California Gold Rush, there’s plenty of charlatans out there looking to make a quick buck selling fake maps for non-existent gold mines to the gullible and greedy alike. Social media “gurus” are the crooks du jour, and a handful of recent events have left a really sour taste in my mouth about the marketing profession as a whole, seriously wondering if there’s any point in even trying to do things the right way anymore.
Can marketers really engage in “conversations” with consumers, or is the focus on short-term returns and developing personal brands too intense to avoid a continued poisoning of the well?
Is it too late for marketing to be considered a relevant, valued and ethical discipline?
Who’s out there doing things the right way, “overwhelm[ing] the market with long-term, generous marketing” and having fun doing it?