Enlightened Conflict

How do you solve a problem when one half absolutely hates the other half?

February 10th, 2017

Polar Opposites conflict

 

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I want people to think about our politics here in America, because I’m telling you guys that I don’t know of a single nation in this history of the world that’s been able to solve its problems when half the people in the country absolutely hate the other half of the people in that country.

This is the most important country in the world, and people in this body cannot function if people are offending one another.

Marco Rubio

 

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Well.

 

Polarization can create some pretty foul conduct.

 

Polarization can bring out the worst in people.

 

Polarization can create stillness within turmoil when movement within teamwork is needed <and desired>.

And.

 

Polarization within leadership is a virus that infects everyone in the organization … not just in leadership.

marco rubio speech on respectful conflict

I was reminded of this as I watched a completely underreported and under the radar speech Marco Rubio gave on the senate floor after <I believe> Elizabeth Warren had been asked to stop speaking.

Warren gained all the headlines where Rubio actually had the words we should have all been listening to. It is maybe 8 minutes long and worth every second.

 

 

Please note that I believe this message is more important than just one directed toward the Senate … it is a message which all Americans should take note of.

We are fortunate to have the privilege of freedom of speech & thought and we should embrace that freedom as one to permit healthy discussion, debate and disagreements … all of which should enable healthy, positive decisions.

 

Freedom is a tricky thing. In the United States of America we have the unique opportunity to “criticize a president without retribution.” <as past President Obama said to a group of military people at MacDill Air Force base>.

 

But our freedoms are being challenge by Trump and his attitudes & behaviors in ways we haven’t really seen in a very very long time.

 

The Trump Affect ripples way beyond simple executive orders and specific friends unfluencers ripples2actions that will have an impact on the people of the country. The more dangerous ripple effect is one of attitudes & behaviors.

Within this dangerous Trump affect ripple,  the freedom to freely criticize is a little less secure … and the way we criticize, debate & discuss in the Trump era appears to be one of not listening, not respecting and not believing that there could possibly be a way to do something differently than the way “I believe.”

 

Trump and his merry little band of morally corrupt liars suggest that there is no middle ground for “ladies & gentlemen to disagree with ladies & gentlemen” <note: this is a rip off of the Ritz Carlton motto>.

 

The Trump Affect has trickled down into his direct organization … the congress.

 

And within that ripple Republicans either embrace the bully opportunity or simply privately watch in horror as leadership decorum and leadership example <which, by the way, IS important as impressionable children and adult seeking cues on how to be leaders watch closely>.

And within that ripple Democrats screech & gnash their teeth in impotent frustration over not only having no power to shift the tides of change but also because, in their heart of hearts, they know this is not the way business should be conducted.

 

Balance has disappeared.

compromise balancing actWhile people can bitch & moan that decorum, in the past, has only encouraged stagnancy & lack of action they should not confuse with what business is conducted and how business is conducted.

Just as I am more accepting of my high school football coach if we have a losing season but the players play with respect & dignity and go to class and show signs of growing up with a healthy personal responsibility … I am less accepting of the coach who permits poor behavior & lack of respectful competition even if they win more.

You can have all the good in this case. But balance has been lost.

 

In fact.

 

We should face the fact that balance deserted us the day Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy.

 

And that is why Rubio’s speech is so important. Without actually saying it he suggests that we shouldn’t let Trump drag us down into some dysfunctional squabbling amorphous blob of indignant jerks.

 

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“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.

Both are nonsense.

You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

 

———-

Rick Warren

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I like conflict and I think conflict is healthy.

creative spark light bulb

It is a basic Life truth that conflict is the positive friction that often creates innovations and new thinking and new ideas.

But, as with most things in life, there are degrees of conflict.

 

The kind of conflict we need now, more than ever, is the productive type.

 

We need to better embrace the valuable contradictions in life.

Things like:

 

Smart and funny.

Silent but says a lot.

Liberal conservative.

Cynical optimist.

 

Oh.

 

And enlightened and conflict of course.

 

We need to better embrace the fact that contradictions are powerful.

They create a chemistry ending in positive friction <when done right> and the fire for innovative thinking and thoughts.

 

In general I believe contradiction not only make life & people interesting but they also forge the kind of decisions that become the iron construct for a solid culture, civilization and country.

 

We need to embrace that conflict is part of life and not treat it as only a negative thing.

 

void embrace the unknownHumans are neither passive nor stagnant. We move. We do. We think.

 

Combine that fact with individuals are unique <although they may group together> and inevitably there is some conflict. It can simply be healthy competition or it can be staggeringly evil intended activity <i.e. there will be conflict because your point of view and thoughts shouldn’t exist and I am going to extinguish them>.

 

We need to embrace the fact that conflict can be “managed”.

Maybe call it competitive camaraderie. I call it enlightened conflict. I believe if people know more about stuff <I don’t really believe it needs a technical term> then conflict will be conducted with knowledge.

 

I would suggest that ignorance, and being close minded, guides conflict toward evil interactions … while knowledge guides conflict to responsible interactions.

 

Lastly.

 

We need to embrace that enlightened conflict is really some version of pluralism.

A pluralism in that it encourages, and embraces, freedom to learn and freedom to think different thoughts.

 

In the end I imagine what I really care about are people’s actions. They can remain mute as far as I am concerned as long as their actions respect others opinions and others lives and meets global responsibilities.

 

Look.

 

enlightened conflict ideasIt is silly to think that conflict doesn’t exist as part of our natural behavior <I apologize to all the “why can’t we all get along” groups>.

 

It is silly to think that friction between beliefs and causes is not the spark for something better.

 

It is silly to think conflict and friction is not good.

Good conflict leads to positive friction and ideation and evolution of ideas.

 

But it needs to be conducted with respect. Respectful disagreements & debate lead to two things:

 

  • Positive friction.

 

  • Enlightened conflict.

 

 

The first is based on curiosity plus friction equals better ideas and thinking.

The second is lack of ignorance plus conflict equals respectful competition.

 

We here in the United States have an incredible privilege … a freedom to say what we want and disagree and criticize whomever we want. We shouldn’t abuse that privilege by not understanding that it creates good conflict which enlightened conflict thinkenables ‘gooder’ ideas.

 

Marco Rubio did something in his speech which I endorse wholeheartedly … he tried to make an impact on his own little corner of the world … encouraging positive friction for enlightened conflict.

 

 

Marco Rubio had a stellar enlightened conflict moment … and more people should see it and listen.

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“Enlighten the people, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

Thomas Jefferson

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Words unite and build (or divide)

January 16th, 2017

 

words big brevity

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“Discourse should be proper, restrained and dignified, if possible.

A society that devalues meaningful conversation slides into mediocrity and is debased by the decline in accepted standards of speech.

 

Our English language is an amazing vehicle that allows us to communicate effectively and with the finest of nuances. But abusing the language by stooping to deride or threaten another is not what helps keep our society operating smoothly. We should instead seek to encourage and uplift others and not tear them down with negative rhetoric that serves to promote discord.

 

Americans need to tone their language down, and it’s imperative we begin to act like adults who know how to use self-restraint in guiding our thoughts and actions.”

 

 

Patrick Martin

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Well.

 

It must be a word day for me.

 

trump twitter storm

………… poor leadership communication ……….

The same day I talk about the hollowness of a tweet and empty words <and how Trump refuses to effectively communicate as a leader> I read that the Prime Minister of the UK is using words in an almost striking example of how to address division, and a divided citizenry, with words.

 

We could replace the UK specificity with USA specifics in her proposed speech … and … well … it would be exactly what we should expect from one of the most divisive public servants <I use ‘servant’ loosely in this case> we have ever faced.

 

She is expected to say <with Britain references changed>:

“… focus on building “common goals” – such as protecting and enhancing workers’ rights – in an attempt to create a consensus after months of acrimonious exchanges.

 

“One of the reasons that USA’s <sic> democracy has been such a success for so many years is that the strength of our identity as one nation, the respect we show to one another as fellow citizens, and the importance we attach to our institutions means that when a vote has been held we all respect the result. The victors have the responsibility to act magnanimously. The losers have the responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the result. And the country comes together.

Now we need to put an end to the division and the language associated with it – loser and winner <sic> and all the accompanying insults – and unite to make a success and build a truly global USA <sic>.”

—-

 

Well.

 

This is a leader looking for a clear path forward and using words to not only unite … but to seek civilized progress.

 

This is a leader recognizing that a tweet is insufficient.

 

This is a leader who identifies the problem, appeals to the better aspects of people and offers a solution.

 

 

Look.unite-have-each-other-everything

 

I recognize words only have so much power.

In fact I could argue that they do not have actual behavioral power but rather they are the things that enable the behavior to happen<they get the mind in the right place to actually do what should be done>.

 

Asking people to simply ‘come together’ because of nationalistic acceptance is unrealistic.

 

Viewed harshly in this context … words are being tasked with asking people to partially give up on who they are and become followers of a nation defined by uncertain leadership combined with an uncertain vision <and a decision & vote they may not agree with>.

 

And this is where someone like Trump would have to take a step farther than the prime minister of England. England has their task set forth – Brexit. It is a specific tangible fulcrum point of where to go from here.

 

The UK needs to align behind it and align behind its success <because it is going happen regardless of whether you were a winner or loser in that discussion>.

 

words change inspire futureAnd maybe that is why words matter even more so for President Elect Trump than anyone else.

We do not have a specific task … and, no, “great again” is not a task. And, no, dismantling a relatively successful prior administration agenda is not a task <that is destroying to create>.

 

Without a specific task solving divisiveness and a divided 330 million people universe is a tricky thing. It is not binary <as many people seem to want it to be>.

 

It is not binary because some people define losing in different ways. Some people define winning in different ways.

 

And the truth?

 

A concept can look great as a ‘winner’ but in practicality is a loser.

And vice versa.

 

This is not a game where one team’s win is another team’s’ defeat.

 

Just look at immigration <which is a hot topic almost everywhere these days>.

People may want to see a substantial reduction, or better control, with immigration but may not agree on at what cost <let alone be clear about that cost> and the steps to be taken to address it.

 

You can actually be a winner & loser at the exact same time – winner on the fact immigration is being addressed and loser in that the way it is being done doesn’t match what you want.

 

Winners and losers and combinations thereof are strewn among all the issues Trump has made specific promises, vague promises and no promises on.

 

Free to trade globally has an upside as does nationalism.

Standing by the rule of our own laws and controlling our own borders has an upside for some … but a downside for others.

Eliminating regulations has an upside for some … and a downside for others.

My main point would be that regardless of any decision a president and the administration make there are winners and losers … and to suggest 300 million people win is … well … ludicrous.

 

But let’s take a minute and talk about words and our new most important words time brevity‘winner’ – president elect Trump.

 

Where our President Elect gets most challenged with words <beyond the fact he really doesn’t know big nor good words> is that now we track what I refer to, loosely, as the Trump promises.

 

In the vaguery, or the wretched hollow, of past promises and today’s reality there remains … well … a divide. Therefore, the words encourage divide and reinforce divide. There has been no attempt of words to unite … which would simply be important words that bridge the past promises and present realities <of what will be done>.

 

Just try to track Trump promises versus the reality of the global construct of … well … everything … and there is big question with who the “loser” is.

 

In order for Trump to win, and be a winner, he needs to use words well & wisely — not think in terms of 140 characters but rather paragraphs. The words used well offer the path for alignment and put a ‘hold’ on divisiveness for a while so we, as a nation, can get started.

 

Any leader worth a shit knows to even have half a chance with regard to organizational success <winning> you have to not have part of the company holding you back and you should have as a goal to have a much of the organization stepping forward together as possible.

Power & efficiency resides in unity.

Fragmentation is inefficient and less powerful.

 

Now.

 

words are free cost youI will end by pointing out that words are not the only thing that unites or divides. Words establish the framework from which things happen … when behavior either makes the words themselves winners or losers.

 

Words may say “end divisions and work together” but if actions say the opposite … well … we all lose.

 

The UK PM offers a word path, not a word salad as our President Elect seems to prefer, toward uniting a divided country. Words are powerful when used well.

budget shopping and shoppers

December 22nd, 2016

 want need value

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“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.”

 

Erma Bombeck

 

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“I knew there was evil in the world.

Death and taxes were all necessary evils.

So was shopping.”

 

Lisa Shearin

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“Explain the value and justify the cost – People don’t mind paying; they just don’t like to overpay.”

 

Chris Murray

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So.

 

This is about budget shopping. Not lowest prices … but budget shopping … as in ‘watching how much you spend when you shop’ type shopping.

 

......... prices & budgets .......

……… prices & budgets …….

Budget shopping – dollar stores, deal shopping, excessive coupon cutting – hit its stride during the recession. While it always played a role in everyday shopping it went main stream during that time … well … because people were forced to change their budget shopping behavior.

 

And back during the worst of the worst periods of the recession there was not only real business to be had in the discount & budget retail world … but gobs of people started offering futuristic pondering with regard to what it would mean long term to the world of shopping after the recession.

 

Shit.

Even I wrote about it.

 

At the time I disagreed with many of the pundits who claimed “the shopping world will never be the same and that the forced budgeting behavior by people will change how people shop in terms of buying cheaper & less expensive <two different things> moving forward.”

 

And I was partially right and partially wrong.

 

As is I stated back in 2010 when discussing the have and the have nots that there was a huge swath of America who were not really affected. Let’s say maybe 50%. Yeah. I just typed 50%. While we talk about all the wealth going to the top 1% <which is true> the majority of the country faced little true impact from the recession. Most of the impact on them was worry … not real financial stress.

And then there were the 45% ‘have nots.’ They got screwed. And they are still getting screwed.

 

But, in general, unless you got financially screwed … and stayed financially screwed … i believed most people would get out of the ‘buy cheaper mode’ as quickly as tit was financially viable to do so <as in … return to their past behavior>. Suffice it to say … there were a bunch of psychological reasons I stated as rationale which I will not bore you with today.

 

This changed the way many households shopped for shit … in today’s world the “buzzword” of the day is shopper behavior. 

 

With that in mind let me discuss “aspects of consumer behavior” for a minute.

And by ‘aspects’ I simply mean the differences between consumer attitudes … and actual shopper behavior.

 

What I mean by this is that managing what a person thinks <that’s the attitude if-do-stimulus-responseside of the equation> and what a person actually does in store <this is the shopping, behavior, side of the equation> can be significantly different. In fact … it usually IS significantly different.

 

In recognizing this, if you care about behavior management, you actually get one step closer to understanding how to create shopper satisfaction <and loyalty … the holy grail> if you are actually selling shit.

 

To be clear … if there is misalignment between the thinking <perceptions & attitudes> and the actual doing/shopping outcome, ultimately, there is going to be shopper friction.

For example … if I perceive I am getting a great bargain by going to some store and then consistently find out it wasn’t a great deal … that creates some mental friction.

 

By the way … shopper friction is not good.

 

That said I will use budget grocery shoppers, and some research, as a case in point with regard to shopper friction <or frustration> almost every single shopping-cart-iconsbudget shopper encounters. .

 

The obvious beginning point: the budget grocery shopper attitudes are focused on value and maximizing their budget <and maximizing their shop visit/experience>.

 

But.

 

In reality … as shoppers … their behavior shows they actually don’t save money in store.

 

Uh oh.

 

Misalignment.

 

Friction.

 

It starts innocently.

 

Attitudinally, the fact is that budget shoppers try really hard to save money. In fact, they often go to some fairly absurd lengths as they try harder than ever.

 

Attitudinally, they emotionally care about shopping more than ever <so there is a functional and emotional aspect to the consumer before they even enter the store to shop>.

 

But the unfortunate truth about their trying?

 

Research, facts , show they actually don’t save money and in many cases are doing worse shopping than f they didn’t try so hard <note: there are functional and emotional repercussions to this also>.

 

I say this because grocery stores need to pay attention and understand the budget shopper situation <and frustration>.

 

First … because there are a lot of budget shoppers out there.

 

Second … because many budget shoppers get frustrated when they don’t save money <and wanted to>.frustrated image

 

And these frustrated shoppers translate into a ‘less money spent’ shop event … as well as an underlying dissatisfaction with the store.

All this despite the fact the store may have done everything right – clean store, wide aisles, incredibly low prices, etc.

 

Now.

 

Let’s be careful when we discuss budget shoppers.

 

Not all budget shoppers are truly low income, albeit, it is a fact is that about one in seven American households’ lives in poverty.

 

Another one in six can afford only basic necessities, such as housing, food, and health care.

 

And almost 6 in 10 say they have had to make significant life changes because of the recession <although ‘significant’ is a broad term>.

 

This all becomes even more important when we discuss the psychological aspects of this attitude/behavior scenario because this means for many people we are talking living ‘basics’ now. And when we do that … well … we are moving into what Maslow calls “basic biological & psychological needs.”

And that Maslow psychological profile is possibly even more important a distinction than the true functional “spending within budget” aspect because any shopping frustration is exacerbated by the emotional feeling it is affecting the person’s basic biological needs.

 

<note: that is bad for a store when that happens>

 

Regardless.

 

These economics facts suggest that, at minimum, nearly one in three U.S. households pretty much carefully plan its budgets and spend accordingly.

 

i dont care stuck inHere is the next problem.

 

Budget allocation and spending behavior models often implicitly assume that shoppers with budgets are knowledgeable about the total price of their shopping baskets as they shop. However, because in store shopping behavior actually reflects estimating of the prices of their shopping baskets it mitigates the relationship between budget allocation and actual in-store spending.

 

Uhm.

 

What I just said, in plain English, is that most of us suck at estimating the total cost as we place individual items in our basket by the time we check out we are over budget <and no one puts shit back once in a checkout>.

 

So let me try how to explain how the average shopper estimates their total basket price because inaccurate estimating has implications on:

 

  • Real consumer welfare: the shopper is maximizing neither time nor budget <suggesting the consumer is not meeting basic Maslow hierarchy need>.

 

 

  • Consumer perceptions: the consumer perception afterwards is twofold:

 

(1) somehow I wasn’t smart enough to maximize my budget <or> I wasn’t smart enough to implement the budget plan I had in place <therefore attacking self esteem/self actualization>, and

 

(2) the store made me look & feel stupid <consumer & shopper dissatisfaction>

 

 

  • Retail performance: the store didn’t maximize the transaction opportunity

 

A study was conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology to uncover understanding how shoppers on predetermined budgets might estimate the total price of their shopping baskets and whether, when, and how they keep track of in-store spending. The study had three objectives:

 

–              to determine whether and when budget shoppers keep track of how much they spend while shopping

 

–              to understand how they estimate the total price of their shopping baskets

 

–              to examine the implications of estimation biases for consumer welfare and retail performance.

 

Methodology:

The research was conducted in the context of grocery shopping, for which people shop multiple times per month and often spend 15%–20% of their income on ten or more items per trip.

 

The research, a field study and two laboratory studies, concluded four key generalizations about budget shoppers in grocery stores:occams razor question

 

  1. They predominantly use mental computation strategies to track their in-store spending

 

  1. They adapt their mental computation strategy to the dominant range of price endings of items in their shopping baskets

 

 

  1. Those who try to calculate the exact total price of their basket are less accurate than those who estimate the approximate price

 

  1. Motivated shoppers are less accurate than less motivated shoppers <because they tend to calculate instead of estimate the total basket price>.

 

The key fact grocery retailers need to understand is that budget shoppers are failing at what they are setting out to do.

 

Yeah.

 

Let me say that again.

 

Most shoppers setting out with a motivated intent and attitude to save money and shop on a budget … do not do so. They are failing at what they are setting out to do.

 

This failure creates a domino effect of dissatisfaction <personal as well as some blame on the retailer>.

 

The next conclusion from the research to note is that shoppers who decisions eisenhower more knowledge less consequences teaffectsoverestimate the total basket price most likely spend less than they budgeted for––that is, they do not maximize their own utility under the budget constraint.

 

Furthermore, they might reallocate the “saved” money to a different <mental> account, which could entail a financial loss for the retailer.

 

Next.

 

The study noted that the shoppers who underestimate estimated calculations, i.e., those who underestimate the total basket price, are more likely to spend more than their grocery budget.

 

This means they unintentionally reallocate more money to the “grocery budget account.” This reallocation in turn may trigger a chain of budget and spending decisions that could cause shoppers significant financial distress.

 

Importantly is that a second field study demonstrated that shoppers who underestimate the total price of their basket are more likely to overspend, leading to negative store satisfaction.

 

Where to go from here?
The easiest thought for Grocery Retailers is to begin educating shoppers about computational estimation strategies which may enable them to become more informed shoppers. In other words … turn wild guesses into more educated ones.

 

More difficult, but the path with the highest ultimate return, is to not just educate but actually facilitate an estimation strategy in store almost to the point of “calculation” rather than “estimation.”

 

There are some clear benefits of exploring an answer to all these shopper issues:

 

Consumer Welfare: Real consumer welfare should improve, because shoppers can maximize their utility given their budget while minimizing the likelihood of spending more than they can afford.  This is true functional value to a shopper.

 

Consumer Perception: This is where functional and psychological meet on several levels <and Maslow hierarchy plays a role in what is important>:

 

  1. A budget consumer attitudinally has had his or her behavior match expectations. Attitude and actual behavior is aligned.

 

  1. With alignment the shopper feels smarter translating into a higher self esteem <because they have “self actualized” a perception>

 

 

  1. Consumer self actualization is typically shared with the shopping environment, i.e., I find higher value in the experience because they were able to deliver upon what I desired attitudinally.

shopping-red-cart

In the end.

 

If you work on a solution … if you align the shopping perceptions to match the shopping reality there is a heightened sense of satisfaction.

 

This would suggest that if someone could actually do it and someone wanted to do it … an every second lowest price store could be quite successful. Yeah. A store with every second lowest prices <which is just a funny way to say lowest price store>.

 

And, no, WalMart is not that.

 

Why the idea I just shared and not everyday low price? Well. if you think about it, it seems crazy that stores have every day low price claims.

 

Does that mean you have to worry that every day prices change?

 

Or does it mean that on average during the day if you are really lucky you can find the lowest prices?

And, frankly, you don’t shop every day.

 

Someone shops in the minutes you have in your hectic day.

So if someone could offer lowest prices every minute you decide to come into a store … well … it becomes the simplest way to save money on the stuff you like and buy every week. It’s the smartest way to shop.

 

Anyway.

psychology of risk shopping stuff

Shopper behavior analysis is not anything new. We looked at it in the 80’s when I was at JWT.

We just called it ‘the consumer buying system’ and analyzed all aspects of perceptions, attitudes and shopping behavior. I have even seen a JWT in-house advertisement from the 1930’s that basically outlined managing consumer attitudes and matching them with in store shopping behavior. I say all of that not to suggest studying shopping behavior isn’t important.  In fact I say it to suggest it is.  People have been studying it for years and shouldn’t ignore it if they are in the marketing business.

 

And it is maybe even more important these days as stores think about how to satisfy the budget shopper as well as the budget shopper inside almost every shopper that walks through their door.

 

The retail business is multi faceted.  It is about understanding what people think and what motivates them outside of the store as well as what they think and motivates them once they are inside the store.

 

Here is what I know about managing a shopper experience and budget shopping. Ignore the ‘attitude to outcome’ alignment at your own peril.

communications, advertising & the battle for truth

December 6th, 2016

 

everybody needs what i am selling deserve life

————————–

 

“Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell.’

That will only confuse you.

 

Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”

 

=

David Ogilvy

 

———————

 

“If you try to comprehend air before breathing it, you will die.”

 

=

Mark Nepo

 

—————

 

“Seeking truth is a full time job.

Communicating truth is a purpose in Life.

Embrace that truth and your Life will be significantly more complicated, but significantly more rewarding.”

 

=

Bruce McTague

 

——————–

 

Well.

 

Communicating has always been a tough gig but in today’s world it has taken on liaran increased challenge.

 

I scan headlines in magazines and online and I cannot see one topic being discussed, one industry or any one group of influential type people that isn’t under attack by ‘lack of trust’ or, in other words, ‘liars.’

 

What that means is anything you are communicating isn’t starting from a commodity standpoint <all facts and truths are created equal> but rather you are already in a hole trying to climb out of ‘prove to me this is not a lie.’

 

Truth has never had a more difficult challenge than today. This may sound odd because common sense suggests truth is truth and, unvarnished, stands clear of any and all clutter as … well … truth.

Unfortunately that is not … well … true.

Truth, more often than not, is a wallflower and not the one breakdancing in the middle of the room. The schlub doing the crazy dance alone, being watched by everyone, is more likely a lie or a semi/partial truth. You have to coax truth to the dance floor. Someone has to bring it out into the audience and permit it to be seen.

 

Truth telling is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart. Seeking truth is a full time job <which most people, frankly, just do not have the time to do as they do their paid full time job>.

And communicating truth has to be a purpose in one’s life in order to meet the onslaught of untruths, purposeful ignorance, unintended ignorance, semi-truths and … well … cynicism.

 

To be clear.

 

I do not believe we are in some ‘post truth world.’

Nor do I believe what someone said “there are no facts anymore.”

 

Facts are facts and truth is truth.

There may be some confusion around this but … of all industries … advertising and marketing communications people had sure as shit better be fucking clear on this … or they are in deep shit.

 

Anyone in the professional communications business had better be absolutely fucking clear that communicating today ain’t like communicating yesterday … or they are in deep shit.

 

While I believe business, in general, benefits if they start on day one embracing the thought they are in the decommoditization business <rather than in the ‘uniqueness business’> I believe communications would benefit by embracing the thought they are in the ‘establishing truths’ business.

 

Look <part 1>.

 

Advertising, marketing and all of professional communications is in a challenging position. Challenging in that businesses spend money on marketing & advertising most typically to sell shit. Therefore its main goal is to … well … sell nothing in boxes business selling stuff capitalismshit.

 

This means that if I represent a product and its main buying audience is white, male & blue collar <or pick any demographically based segment> … I am going to use imagery and words that will appeal to them <sometimes to the detriment to other audiences who are less likely to buy your shit>.

 

Now.

 

Of course you want to do it with style and substance and some sense of responsibility <not be stupid>. So any advertising person with any chops <any good> will figure out a way of not doing the stupid shit to sell shit.

Even then … your audience is your audience and while we would like to suggest everything is made to be created with a larger purpose of ‘bettering the world’ … to a business who only has maybe $1000 to market something <or some finite budget amount> that $1000 is spent on selling shit and not ‘bettering the world.’

 

Simplistically … you sell to the people who will buy or have bought.

 

Simplistically … you sell to those people who will buy in the most effective way so that they will actually buy.

 

I say hat because someone on the outside looking in can take apart imagery & words and make some very valid points with regard to the kinds of messages they send … but marketing people & advertising people are under a lot of pressure to sell shit. And, remember, they are in the service business … they ultimately do not do anything but ‘strategically create persuasive creations’… and a business makes the decision on whether what they create will actually be produced and put in front of people.

 

And here is where the communications folk can get a little sideways. They focus on imagery & words & ‘attention’ with the intent to gain interest … not specifically sell shit. And they ignore truth as … well … too complicated & too complex. And it is quite possible we communications folk may have gotten away with that in the past, but in today’s world, sure as shit, you better be grounded in hard, clear truth or you are gonna get screwed.

 

Look <part 2>.

 

In the good ole days … truth was appreciated, but aspirational sold.

 

sell hope i canWell.

 

That was before we all got a good dose of cynicism and started drinking from the fountain of untruths.

Messages are everywhere and simply suggesting you were offering truth because “you’re too clever to fall for manipulation” gave people permission to at least think you were offering truth.

No more my friends.

While aspirational drives value, lack of truth suffocates value into nothingness.

This doesn’t mean there will not be a boatload of products and services who make a sale standing on the superficial surface of irrelevant, but appealing, value. But that will be the geography populated by the hacks.

This truth thing may not be a battle which some people want to fight. And that is okay. But someone has to or the entire industry will become … well … irrelevant. If no one tells the truth then why would I listen to anyone.

I, personally, am not suggesting ditching aspirational but I am suggesting that truth, communicating the truth in a away that people actually believe it is true, is the key to future success.

 

Look <part 3>

 

I have worked in and out of the marketing and advertising business for <yikes> over 30 years so I feel like I have some qualifications to comment on the industry.

 

Everyone on the outside of the advertising business looking in thinks those creating the advertising think about shit that … well … truthfully … advertising people actually never waste their time thinking about.

 

And everyone inside the advertising business thinks about more shit than people outside the advertising could ever imagine they think about.we all scream for the truth

 

Suffice it to say I could gather up examples of advertising using material over 20 years and make pretty much any point I want to make – good, bad, absurd, true, untrue, semitruthful, smart, insightful or blatantly uninsightful.

 

Anyway.

 

Here is a communications truth — perception is not reality.

 

The perception is that advertising makes shit up, makes stupid vapid shit and says nothing <as much as possible> and if they do say something it is a lie and, ultimately, they try and make people feel something <to sell>.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth <with the non hacks>.

 

The problem in advertising typically arises when the ad creators struggle to articulate the benefit <or convince themselves that it is ‘non differentiating’ and then seek to ‘differentiate’ in some form or fashion>.

 

It then can unravel from there because the ‘go-to’ phrase at this point in time is ‘do something brave’ … or ‘entertaining’ or ‘edgy’ <notice nowhere in there is “smart, insightful, thoughtful, truth”>.

 

Sure.

 

Great advertising messaging always is, and will be, imbued with some sense of courage.

 

Why?

 

Because if you want to be distinct you will not please everyone.

Because if you want to tell the truth you will not please everyone.

 

on-top-of-the-worldThe hack advertising people use the ‘do something brave’ phrase indiscriminately to justify bad advertising.

 

The good advertising people use this phrase to do something smart in order to not be different but stand ABOVE everyone else.

 

Yup.

 

Huge difference.

 

Hacks say ‘stand apart.’

 

Non hacks say ‘stand above.’

 

And this is where I imagine articles about advertising should focus their attention on.

 

Why doesn’t the advertising stand above <and not be below what is good & right & untrue>.

 

Advertising should be smart and not talk down to people but actually enable them to rise up to the occasion … and FEEL like they are rising up to engage with that brand or company.

 

Communications should be truthful, regardless whether it is simple or complex, and enable people to be able to FEEL truth in such a way that doubts about that brand or company are swept away.

few thinking and feeling

And it all has to be done with an eye toward ‘decommoditizing’ or being distinct in some meaningful way <because truth, in and of itself, is not a differentiator>.

 

Advertising cannot be dull and uninspired … and you cannot use a small budget as an excuse.

 

In fact … the truth is that a limited budget is typically what drives innovative advertising.

Yup.

Inspired smart creativity tends to make each dollar be more effective <hence you can live with a smaller budget>.

 

In other words … a smart, insightful, relevant, entertaining ad will be more memorable than a typical ‘category using sacred cow imagery’ ad therefore it needs to be seen less for the same effect.

 

Oh.

And if you add in ‘truth’ <in a way in which you aren’t just communicating it but people actually BELIEVE it>, your communications is more memorable, more believable, can be seen less for the same effect … and is, of course, of higher value.

 

By the way … smart means not any obvious photoshopping or any exaggerated ridiculous claims or just plain inaccurate information or anything fluffed up or untrue.

 

By the way … smart means avoiding stereotypes, typecasting and idiotic generalizations and lies.

 

Note to advertising people:

We can see through those slimy tactics. Realize consumers are people … people who are smart and informed.

Make me aware of a product.

Educate me.

Relate to me.

Tell me the Truth.

 

Regardless.

 

 ===

 

“A dull truth will not be looked at.

An exciting lie will.

 

That is what good, sincere people must understand. They must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead.”

 

==

Bill Bernbach

 

——-

 

Truth is truth.

 

Lies are lies.

 

Responsibility is responsibility.

 

And if you do not accept your responsibility to tell the truth as excitingly and politics lies and truth and repeatingconvincingly as you possibly can … lies will win.

 

If you choose to vulgarize the society or brutalize it … or even ignore it <all under the guise of ‘understanding what the consumer wants’> … society will lose.

 

I honestly do not despair when I look at business in today’s world … or even marketing & advertising behavior.

 

I get aggravated.

 

No.

 

I get angry.

I get angry that we are not accepting the responsibility.

I get angry that we are not strong enough to accept the burden.

I get angry that many do not even presume the responsibility is within their purview.

 

Business, whether you like it or not, shapes society. Business, whether you like it or not, shapes truth.

 

What we do matters.

 

Selling stuff doesn’t matter.

It only matters as a means to an end.

 

What really matters is the shaping of attitudes <which ultimately shapes behavior>.

 

Far too often by simply focusing on ‘selling stuff’ the byproduct of our ignoring the larger responsibility is that we brutalizing society in some form or fashion – in this case and in this time and place … it would be truth we are brutalizing.

 

Am I suggesting that selling stuff or being profitable isn’t important? Of course not.

 

All I am suggesting is that HOW you sell stuff and be profitable matters.

And that you have a responsibility in HOW you do what you do.

 

Because HOW you do things impacts society.

It shapes society. It can vulgarize or brutalize … or invigorate or instill good.

 

HOW you do things has a power way beyond simply you or what you do in that moment.

 

HOW you do things is a pebble dropping into a pond.

 

In the end.

 

I will not argue that all advertising is good.

I will not argue that all professional communications is good.

A lot of it is shit.

 

But I will argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, are smart and tend to create smart insightful educating communication pieces that avoid the trite and stereotyping imagery and focus on telling the truth, if not A real truth, rather than lie or some semi truth.

 

I would also argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, have the opportunity to save truth in today’s society.

telling-truth-piss-you-off

I think many of the world’s institutions are embattled but the one that concerns me the most is Truth.

The institution of truth is under siege.

I can honestly say I don’t think most who are attacking truth are trying to facilitate its downfall … most are simply unclear what is truth and what is not. I believe anyone in any position of influence should be proactively assuming the burdensome responsibility of telling and protecting truth <that will come at an expense> but today … I think the professional communications industry should be at the forefront of the battle.

 

Why?

 

They get paid to communicate. If they cannot figure out how to effectively communicate truth, who can?

 

They must … must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead. Uhm. And lies will win.

seek_truth

===

About the author:

I am a 50something who believes my generation hollowed out Truth by simplistically suggesting truth was best told through simplicity.

Truth is neither simple nor hollow.

I have had one framed picture in my office since maybe 2000: Seek Truth.

 

Enlightened Conflict