Enlightened Conflict

balanced versus proportional

June 7th, 2017

balance proportion life business things

 

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“You cannot live without establishing an equilibrium between the inner and outer.”

 

—–

Paul Auster

 

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“I used to think of you that way, you know. Like the sun. My own personal sun. You balanced out the clouds nicely for me.”

 

He sighed.

“The clouds I can handle. But I can’t fight with an eclipse.”

 

 

Jacob

=======

 

“The idea that talent is directly proportional to your trophy cabinet is one I oppose.”

 

—-

Alex Turner

 

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Ok.

 

balance elephantI have been extremely consistent over the years with regard to my belief that I think balance is the key to almost any successful endeavor – in life & in business.

 

Suffice it to say … I am a big balance person.

 

And, yet, the other day during a business discussion it occurred to me that I may not be using the right word or even have the concept correct.

 

I may actually be a ‘proportional’ advocate.

 

Business, more often than not, is about assessing the correct proportional value of a topic, fact or idea and assigning the correct proportional response to that value.

 

Sure.

 

That may inevitably arrive at something we could call “a balanced response” but to get to the so-called balance we need to think about proportions.

 

I imagine, in my head, this means I need to stop viewing things as a zero sum balance but rather as proportional to the situation in hand.

balance and proportion graph

 

I did some research and back in 1975 a guy named Piaget described the essential characteristic of proportional reasoning as it must involve a “relationship between two relationships.”

 

Now.

 

I am not really sure what that means but I am guessing it means that proportional assumes some dimensional aspects while balance is simply a relationship between two more concrete things.

 

He also suggested that proportional involves something called “additive reasoning” which, to me, explained my misrepresentation of balance.

 

Balance suggests an either/or trade off … something like teetering on a balance beam … proportional suggests a more spatial trade off … or maybe ratio based trade off. What I mean by that is I can add one thing as part of a compromise and its true value is a zillion and give up one thing as part of the same compromise and its true value is 1/10th of a zillion.

 

I balanced my response but gained a proportional advantage.

 

There is even something called ‘the constant of proportionality’ but that becomes too complicated for my pea like brain so I will let you google it and see if you can explain it.

 

balance wheel of life proportionateI imagine my real point is that most of us, most likely, are proportional thinkers and not balance thinkers <although we say we are balanced>.

 

More often than not we invariably assess things through assimilation and the synthesis of multiple things <numbers, ratios, tangible, intangible, and … yes … even missing information & components>. Our decisions are a messy mix of analyzing a series of unequal and equal things shaping them into the proper proportions to make a … well … proportional response.

 

All that said.

 

Here was the bigger epiphany to me.

 

While balanced may be the improper term the more I focus on it the higher the likelihood I would actually end up doing the wrong things.

Huh?

If you focus on balance you will inevitably try and force equality in all things. That may sound good but it ain’t really reality. Simplistically it means you are focused on the wrong outcome & objective.

 

Instead, if you focus on the best proportional response to every situation, you may not end up with a one-to-one balanced relationship on any one comparison you review <which creates issues in its own right> but you will end up with a balanced relationship on any given series of comparisons.

 

That last paragraph may actually showcase why most people focus on balance. In a simplistic measurement business world we are almost always demanded to show one-to-one or linear explanations.

 

Balance does that.

 

Proportion does not.

 

This means to embrace being proportional means you will have to accept the burden of explaining the more difficult to explain, to showcase asymmetrical as actually being simple and dimensional can actually reflect symmetry.

 

Nothing in what I just shared in that last paragraph is easy. Particularly in thoughtful rabbit idea quick slowtoday’s business world.

 

All I really know is that whether I like it or not I am actually a proportion person and not a balance person.

 

It only took me over 25 years in business to figure that out <no one has ever suggested I am a quick learner>.

 

Think about it. You may actually be a proportional person too.

how do ads like Pepsi get approved?

April 10th, 2017

 

pepsi kendall jenner commercial

==========

 

“You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.”

 

—-

David Ogilvy

 

============

 

“You cannot use someone else’s fire; you can only use your own.

And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe you have it.”

 

 

==

 

Audre Lorde

 

————

 

“There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

 

==

 

H. L. Mencken

 

———–

 

frankenstein pepsiOk.

 

This is about the Pepsi fake revolution, fake protest , fake celebrity, misguided brand image advertisement  <which I will inevitably call “the Frankenstein social issue” ad>.

 

While I had been shaking my head over the ad when I saw it I wasn’t going to write anything until there was a really nice article in The Atlantic, “how does an ad like this get approved?”   which does a fairly nice job of walking everyone through some of the backroom pretzel logic steps an advertisement like this goes through to actually end up on air.

 

But.

After reading the article I felt I needed to paint on a coat of some advertising development wacky reality because it neglected to share some of the more obscure things which most likely happened.

 

To be clear.

I could write a 10,000 word diatribe on how this Pepsi ad was a misguided use of a celebrity, a misguided  hijacking of a social event, a misguided use of casting and a misguided tone overall for trying to tie image advertising for a brand with a social revolution <tied to a political issue> … but I will not. Suffice it to say that the ad itself is certainly a mashup of bad ideas … a Frankenstein … but making an ad pepsi mash up commercialseven Frankensteins need to be built <they are not just born> and … believe it or not … there will be some specific things that will happen along the development path which can appear as ‘good business protocol’ but in reality is simply bad laboratory technique.

 

Now.

 

Before I skewer Pepsi and their in-house creative group let me suggest a shitload more of the larger companies are going to be faced with this possibility <of developing a misguided socially issue driven ad> sooner rather than later.

 

I have always believed a company, if it has a strong mission centered on some societal moral compass construct, should be sharing it in some form or fashion <it doesn’t have to be in-your-face> in its external marketing & advertising.

 

I now believe, in the age of Trumpism, it is almost a societal imperative for companies & brands to take a stand publicly. And I say that not suggesting they i will be defined stand up speak outstop selling shit but rather they sell shit through a societal view lens. I do believe more than ever companies who stand for something should publicly stand up for that something.

 

And I don’t really care whether it is a liberal or conservative lens … a business should just elegantly articulate their view in the construct of what you sell and who you are. Society is almost demanding the debate & discussion and no one is better to have it publicly, in a civil discourse versus the coarseness found within Trumpology, than businesses.

 

Saying that … I give Pepsi points for at least making the attempt. I take points away because … well … a brand & company as large as Pepsi with access to so much creative & strategic talent should have made a better attempt.

 

But you know what?

 

Even in their bad they did some good … we talked about standing up for shit and how you should, or should not, stand up for shit.

Rather than beat the shit out of Pepsi for this attempt I will hold my fire until we see the next attempt and see if they learned something.

I would suggest everyone try and do that.

 

Now.

 

As for how and why ads like this get approved.

 

The article suggested this:

 

“How do these ads get approved?

By brand managers who are not doing their cultural homework—relying upon surface-level understandings of the cultural phenomenon they are featuring in their marketing communications and not understanding the deep well of emotions, identity politics, and ideologies that their ads will trigger.”

 

Jill Avery, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School

 

Oh.

 

If it were only this black & white, I could solve this.

It is much more absurdly complicated in order to actually approve and produce something this so brutally off target.

 

Suffice it to say that the issue will encompass a spectrum of things … there will be a spectrum of misguided ‘execution strategy’ combined with some thoughts people stand up i will be definedabsurd “brand imperatives” all wrapped up in a nice snug outfit made up of stubborn edgy creative people, old white executives out of touch with their target audience, brand managers adverse to risk but an unhealthy desire to be cooler than they are and company visionaries who view cultural trends through what is cool rather than what is truly trendworthy.

 

This is a Frankenstein social issue “brand” ad created by a brand built on … well … no real social issues … but rather it is representative of a vapid brand which has convinced itself <at least some time in the past> it was more like a ‘fashion brand.’

 

Of course I should take a minute and discuss the research which “must have been done” to create this ad.

 

First.

 

If there really was any research done we need to remind ourselves this is a ‘fashion brand’ <or someone has convinced them they should think of themselves as  fashion brand … which is stupid> created on some vapid imagey type attributes therefore their research is mostly based on some vapid feel-good “cool” cultural benchmarks.

Sure.

I could have set them up with some research company who could have measured what needed to be measured but <a> they don’t want that kind of truth and <b> someone smarter than I was yelling “how could we measure new information … we need to see results which can be compared to what we have so we can also see some ‘post’ numbers.”

 

Well. That yeller was yelling some well-intended truth but misguided in this case.

 

good and bad research pepsiIn larger companies it is always <always> gobs of “pre” information which you pour over and then setting up a ‘post analysis’ against the pre-stuff. This assumes the “pre” is meaningful and on target and that the ‘post’ is really what matters.

 

Uh oh.

 

Assume makes an ass out of you and me.

 

Status quo is a sonuvabitch.

 

That is mostly research they would have used to inform the development.

 

To be clear.

I don’t think they did any ‘pre’ research. I think they “saw” a cultural movement within their supposed target audience and decided “I want to connect with them <so someone go do an ad to do that>.”

 

If any of this past ‘pre’ research was used it was simply to highlight the aspects that supported the idea they wanted to do <I feel comfortable saying that because I have done just that … cherry picking the “pre” information to highlight the reason why an idea is something worth pursuing and even highlighting some of the first components you may want to start building your Frankenstein with … uhm … any advertising person with half a brain has done this>.

 

Second.

 

Ok.

 

Let’s assume they did some research on the ad itself <which is different than research informing the development of the ad>.

 

Someone probably set up some high falutin’ research methodology tracking trying and researching knowledgewatcher response second by second and checked scores against industry norms <or their own imagey crappy stuff they have done in the past> and the final power point was 30 pages long <with maybe 12 pages of backup graphs> and the printed binder they handed out to a select few to bludgeon themselves with at a later date was probably 80 pages <with nice colored tabs>.

 

Here is the net of all that stuff.

 

The celebrity drove up ‘breakthrough’, recall and ‘brand interest’ <albeit they hid the numbers that said the celebrity did not build credibility or authenticity>.

 

And, yeah, I would also bet someone probably dug up a nice score on “unique from competition.”

 

And I also bet they figured out a way to get a score worth showing <you never show bad numbers unless you can convince everyone that the bad number is actually a good number … yeah … we do that> to suggest the overall message was topical and that their audience related to the importance of “standing up and speaking out.”

 

And I would also bet that they didn’t have a particularly good, nor bad, likeability score … just something that didn’t deter them from this path.

 

And, lastly, I would bet they rummaged through any research they had to seal the deal on what I believe is possibly the worst part of the ad <having the celebrity leave being a celebrity and join the ‘common folk’>. They found a number that suggested “this shows that this issue is SO important that everyone, celebrities and fantastic looking poor folk included, shed their exterior Life and gather together to stand up an speak out.”

I added this last thought and call it out because … well … this is about the only thing that could have been said in the final presentation to the old white men, out of touch with their everyday customer, to gain final approval.

 

And let me say about the test scores I just highlighted … this is where testing fails people. It’s just numbers. And it’s just not real world.

 

The numbers don’t match the eye/sniff test.

 

And in a real world <on tv> environment the ad is annoying to anyone who actually wanted to participate in the movement or did participate … and the ad is generally unmemorable <and doesn’t even come close to capturing any aspect of ‘soul’ of Pepsi … assuming they have one>.

In testing it may seem fun and hip and upbeat but on tv it is annoying and bland and soulless.

 

By the way … I tossed in the word “soul” in that discussion.

 

I bring it up to make a point to any and all vapid brands out there thinking about actually taking on a social issue & message.

 

“Cool” doesn’t hack it if you want to be a fabric of society <which is different than a fabric of culture>. Weaving your way into the fabric of society demands you share a little bit of your soul … your heart … so that people can connect.

 

Yeah.

I know.

That’s not vapid. That’s some solid unforgiving truth telling about yourself.

 

Sorry.

That’s the price <and Pepsi was not willing to pay it>.

 

advertising talk to people hughNext.

 

How does this get approved?

 

Well. Let me spend a minute on image advertising and creative people.

 

Vapid fashion brands far too often forget they are selling shit to people. Most times they will just say “that’s the job of promotions” or “that is point of sale efforts and we are supposed to drive people to the point of sale” or “our job is to be cool so that people want us so badly they will drive through … well … neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Uhm. On rare occasions, maybe a new i-phone, you can inspire that kind of ‘urgent desire to buy’ but in most cases it is just a 6-pack of Pepsi.

 

Creative people are stubborn people in their everyday work life. The non-hacks … the good talented smart creative people, mostly in good ways, stubbornly & aggressively hold on to creative edges <not just to be edgy but rather to insure there is some edge to what is done>. This gets dialed up in image advertising campaigns because for some reason as soon as a creative person hears “image” <or “brand”> they immediately think “vapid” <I don’t have to sell anything, communicate anything specific and the objective is to create an overall sense that what I am saying is good and the brand is some good shit>.

 

Triple the intensity with regard to everything I just said for creative hacks <or almost all non-agency advertising people> and add in they confuse ‘creative edges’ with ‘edgy’.

 

If you are attempting to do an image advertisement you are only partially challenged <fucked> with good creative people and absolutely screwed <fucked> with bad creative people.

 

Lastly.

 

How does something like this get approved?

The “someone.”

 

Ok.

 

With an ad like this, which I assume was polarizing in its final stages, there is always “someone.”

 

someone pepsi speak out convinceSomeone who stands up and says ‘here is why.” Someone to stand up and speak out that bullshit line I just shared with you … “this ad shows that this issue is SO important that everyone, celebrities and fantastic looking poor folk included, shed their exterior Life and gather together to stand up an speak out.”

There is always ‘someone’ in that frickin’ final approval room, usually someone who shouldn’t have that kind of power, who the old white advertising-clueless men will look to in their moment of doubt on whether it is the right thing to do.

In the advertising business you cultivate this ‘someone’ so that they can bring you home <even if you have a bad misguided idea>. Suffice it to say on an ad like this there will be someone at Pepsi right now who is squirming and most likely getting ready to point a finger at some research person for either <a> not giving the right piece of information or <b> not asking the right kind of question.

 

Anyway.

 

I feel sorry for companies who truly do want to start doing image advertising and stay within their brand character and navigate the internal politics and … well … it is nothing they have done before.

 

There are rarely, very rarely, neat & plausible solutions to what a business faces in the here & now on this topic <and if someone tells you there is … they are lying>.

If you are shown a ‘formula for success’ and it looks neat and it seem plausible … it is most likely wrong.

 

That isn’t to say someone like me, or someone with smarts, experience and more talented than I, couldn’t guide a company down a viable path to success … just that there is no formula.

 

What I am now going to say is going to sound painfully inefficient.

 

A business has to create its own way of doing things. It can certainly contain some aspects of things that have been done in the past but those are simply ingredients from which you will build your own formula.

And, to be clear, if you start bolting together different formulas to create a successful business advertising idea … you are simply creating a Frankenstein which the village people are going to end up killing with simple pitchforks & torches <see Pepsi as an example>.

 

Your business formula for success will have to be yours.

 

In the end I would say this.

 

My guess is that Pepsi tried using a formula for something that is most likely really different than things they have tried in the past.

 

And while the difference between brutal and brilliant is a relatively thin line even for the people who do this for a living … you can teeter even more when attempting to enter into the fabric of a societal issue.

 

This ad was horrible.pepsi commercial stupid

Absolutely horrible.

 

But please don’t forget … Pepsi tried. They made the attempt.

 

In a Trumpenstein world in which being silent will only let the monster tear the village apart they spoke out. They stood up.

Misguided? Sure.

The villagers tore them apart.

But maybe, just maybe, the villagers should pick them up, dust them off, and say go try again … because the Trumpenstein is coming … and we can use any voice we can.

 

 

======================

 

“You cannot paint the Mona Lisa by assigning one dab each to a thousand painters.”

William Buckley

 

where Obama administration never got enough credit (a business perspective)

March 29th, 2017

 

balance strategy results business

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“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

 

Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets

 

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“Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”

 

Tanzanian proverb

 

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Ok.

 

product of my decisions circumstancesBusiness is always about choices.

Mostly hard and difficult choices.

 

Of course … a business leader can make some easy choices and avoid the more difficult ones.

Simplistically, the novice business leaders see a prize and set about attempting to attain that prize.

Let’s call that ‘tunnel vision objectives’.

 

Frankly, if that represented the best of the best in terms of leadership … running a business would be fairly easy and almost anyone could run & manage a business.

 

But. That’s not reality. That’s not really the way it works. Rarely are things as simple as they appear and even more rarely is something a simple cause & affect, do this and get that, without any unintended consequences.

 

I thought about this as I watch the Trump administration take some fairly extreme steps to <as Ted Cruz seems to have patented> “take the boot off the necks of businesses.”

The Trump administration is bringing a sledgehammer to business regulations.

 

I have actually have little doubt that the measures the moral-less Trumplestiltskins will actually make the American economy grow more easily sledge-hammer-maze-business-get-shit-doneand possibly even create some higher growth than we have been enjoying.

 

But, that is easy.

 

That is something a beginner would do because it is obvious and, if your only goal was to show “wins & results” that is what you would do.

 

The more difficult thing is to create a menu of objectives, balance them all out as important, and set about a plan of action to attain them in which you remained positive on almost all fronts and accept the fact you will sacrifice some ‘higher highs’ on some items on the menu for positives on all fronts.

This business management choice is more difficult because anyone with half a brain could pull out one thing on the menu and point out how it could be done better and be doing better.

 

Shit.

I did that crap when I was in my 20’s. It is a cheap way of scoring points and showing you can drive some specific results.

 

And it is on this greater point where I believe the Obama administration doesn’t get enough business credit.

I will not argue they didn’t overreach on some regulations and some initiatives … because I believe they did. And, yet, even with the overreach, which obviously constricted business & economic growth, they still left the reins loose enough for the business & economy to grow at a quasi-healthy rate.

 

Could someone suggest it was an “anemic healthy” rate? Sure. That is if you viewed it by ignoring any restrictions and any other objectives and any other priorities they outlined. And if you did that I would argue you were either lazy or self-serving.

 

The Obama administration demanded business growth and yet demanded a gartner long termlonger term action plan to accommodate the environment, climate, immoral business practices and, in general, a variety of activities which girded the economy and the country for the long term.

 

The economy did grow. Unemployment did decrease. Wages did slowly increase.

And at exactly the same time regulations were put in place to steer desired long term behavior.

 

Basically … from a business perspective … the Obama administration managed to figure out how to meet short and long term objectives at exactly the same time.

Were they perfect? Of course not.

Could they have managed the balance differently? Sure.

Did they balance it well enough? Yeah. the results prove it out.

 

In business we always need to strike a balance between doing what is best for our business and doing what customers want and doing what our customers need … and all within short term needs and long term demands.

 

And, yes, customers are more empowered today than ever before but as a business leader you view what the customer wants through a lens of “what is best for the business itself.”

 

The Obama administration appeared to balance what the customer wanted, and needed, with what the country <the business> needed & wanted.

 

Not to get into business management weeds but this shows an ability to assess the greater opportunity cost for all things considered in attaining all objectives. What this does, when you do it well, is to insure you view the ‘easy’ choice you are sure to assess how fast the ‘costs’ accrue against all objectives <not just on the choice itself>.

A good business person always assesses the overall impact on your business with every choice.

 

Ultimately, it is a balancing act to insure everything you do should produce value for your business and for customers.  This is not easy and it doesn’t beget a shitload of easy decisions. But it does make for balanced strategies and balanced tactical executions.

 

I do not see any of this with the Trump administration.

A good business person wouldn’t bring a sledgehammer to existing rules, regulations and initiatives but rather a scalpel – and surgically assess and slice out specific items which would increase the overall flow of the lifeblood of the economy <without killing the body>.

 

But, apparently there are no good business people in this new administration <despite what Trump says about himself>.

 

Look.

 

You can argue with the objectives the Obama administration prioritized and spock live longyou can argue over any specific priority <or depriotization> but given the objectives & priorities they selected … they attained what almost any business leader would kill for – a win on almost everything.

 

In a world in which we almost demand singular focus the administration said “no” <philosophically I agree with that mentality> and developed multiple objectives and managed them all relatively equally.

 

All I really know is that the Obama administration most likely did not get enough credit business & economy-wise.

 

wonder how the same thing can be both

February 7th, 2017

good bad best worst think do life be

==============

 

“I’m always finding humans at their best and worst.

I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.”

 

————–

Death

<in “The Book Thief”>

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So.

 

This quote is said by Death.

 

Yeah.

Death is suggesting he considers humans beautiful … as well as everything else that we are … all the while resting comfortably in his chair awaiting the opportunity to end it all.

 

We all know we're going to die, but it's one of the few human experiences we don't like talking about. How can we change that?

I admit.

 

The thought seems slightly counter-intuitive, but I like thinking the thought that Death is a lot more complicated than we may think.

 

I like thinking that Death sees us … and assesses us … and maybe even judges us a little … as not one-dimensional things to say ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down.’

 

I like thinking of death as not some grim reaper but rather a thoughtful person who has a job to do. One who contemplates the fact that some days will be good and some days just won’t be so fun.

 

I like thinking of Death One who can see the best and worst … acknowledging that good things can happen to bad people and bad things can happen to good people.

 

And, I imagine, I like thinking of Death as … well … intelligent and not simply some mindless executioner wandering about seeking his next victim.

 

For sure this quote reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quote about intelligence:

 

“The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

 

 

I believe it was Keats who called this ‘negative capability.’

 

best worst faces life people good badAs he explained <or tried to > “it is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.”

 

In other words … you understand, or least come to grips with, that there is a shitload of inconsistency and uncertainty in Life and, yet, you deal with it and do what you need to do.

 

<that’s my translation>

 

The truth in Life is that we really don’t have to be one thing because you’re not another thing – or not be something if you are something <you get it>.

 

It may seem impossible to appear to be a contradiction and, yet, be quite a successful, happy, productive bundle of contradictions.

 

Not only do you not have to be one thing forever but you can actually be a couple of things now … at the same time … in this time & place.

 

I sometime believe individual happiness is found more often than not in our ‘negative capability’ intelligence. In other words … how smartly we can navigate the contradictions in Life as well as the contradiction of what is within who & what we are. If we don’t learn negative capability then we must seem to inevitably seek to isolate being one thing and one thing only as a judge of whether we are living Life well, productively and with focus.

 

And maybe that is why I believe Death was, and is, intelligent — it has mastered negative capability. Death has embraced the contradiction of being one thing and yet living another seemingly contradictory idea.

If Death can see beauty in that which it will inevitably have to end with its own hand surely we can see good in bad … as well as be both bad & good ourselves.

 

Regardless.

 

It seems like there is a lesson in here for all of us. And maybe the lesson is, unfortunately, not that simple.

 

Death looks, on the surface, as one thing … and yet … is most likely another.

 

Death does one thing … and yet … most likely thinks many other things.

 

We view Death as one thing and avoid him … and yet … should we meet him on the street on his way to meet someone other than us … he may greet us with a smile.

 

While Death’s perception challenge  is actually called “affective fallacy” <confusion between what it is and what it does> this is a challenge we all face in Life.

 

I imagine, in the end, the lesson is a simple one … sometimes Life just isn’t that simple.

 

Ok.

 

Ditch the ‘sometimes.’best worst good bad life complicated

 

Life is never that simple.

 

We are more than one thing … we are a sum of all our parts … we are part of everyone we have met <and will meet> … and we are, at our core, a reflection of a multi-faceted character containing aspects of all which we desire to be as well as some aspects which we view slightly glumly as ‘the aspects I do not desire to be … but am.’

 

We either embrace the contradictions or … well … we will most likely suck at dealing with Life and living Life.

 

Anyway.

 

What I do know is that I wish someone taught “negative capabilities 101” because we should all sign up for that class. It would be a better world if we were all competent in negative capabilities.

 

 

=======================

 

“When the first living thing existed, I was there waiting.

When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.”

 

Neil Gaiman

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advertising and politics and what you have to say matters

February 6th, 2017

insights people

=================

 

“You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.”

 

David Ogilvy

 

===============

 

“One can resist the invasion of an army but one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.”

 

Victor Hugo

===============

 

“The pursuit of excellence is less profitable than the pursuit of bigness, but it can be more satisfying.”

 

 

David Ogilvy

==============

 

 

So.

 

attitude foreign life adventure

 

Today there will be an onslaught of reviews, assessments and critiques of all the ads seen during the Super Bowl. You will not find one here today … or tomorrow … or any day for that matter.

 

Instead I want to take a moment and comment on business responsibility and their choices with regard to what they say, or do not say, in advertising.

 

I do so because in today’s heightened sense of politicism and divisive rhetoric a shitload of people are making noise about “advertising should honor the event and not use it to make a political statement.”

 

I am most likely in the minority within the marketing community on this issue but … that is nuts to me.

 

Uhm.

If not then … then when?

 

Uhm.

If not me … then who?

 

Yeah.

 

I fully understand  there are consequences & repercussions for your actions.

 

 

But let me take a couple minute to talk about the ‘actions’ part. Far too often this discussion devolves into a simplistic binary choice – an ‘either/or’ choice.

 

You stand for this therefore you hate that. business ethics direction good bad choice

 

 

In other words you cannot be pro-choice and yet respectful or understanding of pro-life … you cannot desire stronger immigration rules and still be accepting of immigrants … you cannot believe in your religion and still accept that how others worship is good & worthy.

 

Let’s face it.

 

Life, in most cases , is not some simplistic binary choice. You can, and should, believe in something and yet still can, and should, be accepting and respectful of others views. To be clear … to be successful in this endeavor we would not only need to embrace respect but also assume that most people, let’s say maybe 99% of people, do the best they can and make the best decisions they can <no matter how flawed those decisions may look in our eyes>.

 

Which leads me back to business and advertising.

 

I believe advertising, in general, should always seek to highlight the opportunity for us to see the better, or best, version of who and what we are.

 

And that is where I believe business marketing and advertising should not fear speaking out. And … I would point out … what I am suggesting is not political nor is it divisive but rather it is contributing to a better society.

 

It is not stating what you believe is wrong … but rather that standing up and speaking out for what you believe is right. Companies make statements all the time. Maybe they do more vocally internally but part of any good organization is a sense of what they believe is right, versus wrong, and how they may define integrity & values.

 

Frankly. We need more companies standing up and vocalizing this publicly.

This is not about saying “you are wrong for believing this” or “we do not agree with you” but rather more about normalizing what is right.

 

I talk with a shitload of business people … not about advertising or marketing per se … but rather about simply being successful in the marketplace.

 

we and you want the whole pie 2

 

I focus on distinction and not differentiation.

 

 

I focus on worrying about “me” and what I want to say rather than finding some elusive, and most likely nonexistent, ‘white space’ in some industry to shape what I ‘should say.’

 

 

I focus on saying the right things and doing it the right way and suggesting that if you tell people the right way to think about things that eventually people will see you as ‘right’ rather than ‘wrong.’

we and you want the whole pie 1

 

Look.

This is not about free speech or any political motivation, per se, but it is about how business, and work life, is an important part of the societal fabric of who and what we are and how and what we think.

 

This also means a business has to slide around the infamous ‘political correctness’ obstacle.

In my eyes … if you want to discuss how political correctness has gone awry … it would be in the business world. Political correctness scared businesses from assuming a role they had gladly played in the past.

It wasn’t too long ago that business played a significant role in shaping society. As Peter Drucker pointed out, back in the early 1990’s, something he discussed called “no more salvation by society” … a time in which businesses understood that work made up a significant portion of people’s lives and therefore they had some responsibility to investing in the fabric of society. As time and views have shifted toward ‘making a dollar’ and profits … the work place became less and less an extension of society but rather simply ‘a place to work and gain a paycheck’.

 

What an empty thought that is.

 

So empty that when meetings occurred to discuss ‘risk in their advertising’, and ‘what should we say’, was discussed … ‘social responsibility’ sat in the corner and had nothing to defend it … and businesses became afraid to make a stand on what they believed was good for society <and simply focused on ‘brand differentiation’ and ‘branding’ … in other words … I am gonna just worry about me and let you worry about you>.

 

Well.

 

This is not only sad … but wrong.

 

Our work lives, like it or not, represent a significant portion of our lives … not just in terms of sheer hours but also in terms of thinking we are exposed to, accepted behavior and general attitudes on what is right & what is wrong.fix society

 

For a business to avoid that ‘fabric of society’ responsibility is shameful.

 

And … yeah … advertising is the most visible expression should they actually accept the responsibility.

 

Ok.

 

Yeah.

 

That said. I go back to the beginning … yeah … there are absolutely consequences for your actions. But that is what business positioning is really all about. Distinctness and forcing people to think … think about you as a company, think about what you are offering … and thinking about how they feel about you, your message … and themselves.

That is what business positioning and marketing and advertising, at its core, is all about. We far too often dumb it down into some ‘selling shit’ sound bite but … well … that is dumb.

 

Yes.

I know.

 

People will debate with me and, to be fair, this whole discussion wanders along the razor thin line of inclusionary versus exclusionary. If your message is effective, concise and clear, it will absolutely be inclusionary for those who see themselves in what you have to say and offer … and potentially exclusionary to others at exactly the same time.

 

However, when done well, a business’s advertising captures the brand’s distinctness <which is a campfire to those who want to be included> and offers a better version of people <so that people do not dislike you … they imply think ‘they are not for me’>.

 

better version think road path society

 

But to do what I am suggesting a business has to set political correctness off to the side, not think about politics at all … and simply think about … well … people. The people who they desire to try their products and services and how they would like to showcase those people as the best version of themselves. Maybe show them the destination mentally or maybe even share the path. It doesn’t matter … it is intended to connect with some better version that resides in everyone of us.

 

And then after thinking about all that … they have to place the burden of responsibility upon their shoulders, open the door and stride out into the world to share it with people.

 

Yes.

In business we have a responsibility.

 

Yes.

Even in the advertising and marketing business there is an almost overwhelming responsibility <which far too many people are not willing to accept this burden> beyond simply selling stuff.

 

——

 

“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society.

We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”

 

==

Bill Bernbach

 small big matters tweak

——-

 

“We are so busy measuring public opinion that we forget we can mold it.

We are so busy listening to statistics we forget we can create them.”

 

==

Bill Bernbach

 

——-

 

It is a much easier burden to simply focus on profit and dollars — it is a straightforward black & white responsibility.

Well.

I would suggest to any business person reading this that … well … responsibility is responsibility. All responsibility is only as overwhelming or ‘whelming’ a you make it.

 

And if you do not accept your responsibility to tell the truth as excitingly and convincingly as you possibly can … lies will win … and society will end up being shaped that way.

 

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.

 

To be clear.

 

I do not despair when I look at business in today’s world … or even marketing & advertising behavior. And, I will admit, I was heartened by some of the ads I saw aired on the Super Bowl.

 

But I do get aggravated.

 

Ok.

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.

 

matters do hugh 1What we do matters.

 

Selling stuff may matter to our bottom line and the existence of our business but we cannot ignore that a thriving business actually contributes to a greater good — the existence of a healthy society.

 

 

I could argue that while selling stuff is important that 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 end up brutalizing society in some form or fashion.

 

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 and 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.

 

 

Accepting the responsibility assumes you are neither impotent nor harmless.

 

——-

 

“Advertising is far from impotent or harmless; it is not a mere mirror image. Its power is real, and on the brink of a great increase. Not the power to brainwash overnight, but the power to create subtle and real change.

The power to prevail.”

 

==

Eric Clark, The Want Makers: Inside the World of Advertising, 1988

 

——

 

Your responsibility in business is sometimes subtle … but always real.

 

I worry that business people everywhere, but in particular advertising & marketing, have become so focused on getting shit done and ‘attaining the bottom line’ that they have forgotten the responsibility.

 

I worry that business people worry so much about politics and ‘political correctness’ they have forgotten that when good people remain silent … the only one who wins is bad.

 

I ask everyone visiting today to think about what the thinking I offered today.

 

This isn’t about causes.

 

This isn’t about social responsibility <or the welfare of people>.

 

This is about understanding that what you do impacts people.

 

This is about whether you, as business people, accept the burden of responsibility to help shape a society which is a reflection of the best versions of who and what we are.

 

Well.

lift society vulgarize or shape

That is my “Super Bowl advertising review” thought piece.

 

In my eyes … if I am going to spend $5 million on some advertisement and place my ad on some show where a gazillion people will see it … I am going to use my moment in the spotlight to aim for the  best version of myself that I can. And aim to help people see the best version that they can be.

 

Will that piss some people off? Sure.

Does that make me wrong to try and meet that objective? No.

 

Silence is not an option. When you have the podium and he opportunity to speak … you accept the burden of responsibility and try and ‘lift society to a higher level.’

Enlightened Conflict