I stage a lot of experiential learning opportunities in my classes. With the luxury of 3 hours per class session, a diverse range of nationalities, the maturity that is typical of grad students, and a foundation of trust, I can set up some pretty profound journeys for all involved – including me. In my staging I quite often startle myself with what results. I really don’t know they will turn out, which of course makes them even more powerful because they are authentic. Truth is the central goal of pretty much everything I do, and truth is almost always startling.
So it will come as no surprise that one day while we were exploring some marketing truths we suddenly found ourselves on the edge of a cliff I had not intended to go over: the “Judgement” question, with a capital “J”. If we looked at this question in the class we would be plunging to a new level of truth – one I was not sure most students in the class were ready for. I was uncharacteristically startled into momentary silence when we reached the cliff edge – and delightfully surprised by the arrival of the vista of truth that opened up.
I stopped on the cliff’s edge that day instead of plunging over. But that vantage point gave me the next Marketing Manifesto principle:
A Marketing Manifesto
10 principles and practices of great marketing:
#8: You can’t judge…anything
Arriving at this cliff edge came suddenly because you really can’t avoid the Judgement question in marketing – it is everywhere. Heck, everyone already thinks marketers are evil, using psychological tricks to prey on innocent consumers. So, having to face the question of Judgement really should have happened sooner.
But here it is what lies below that cliff, on the plain of truth below:
In marketing you can’t judge…anything. Everything you do will have both intended and unintended consequences. You can only act from a place of personal integrity. All that results from your efforts and actions is in the proverbial ‘eye of the beholder’.
The foundation of judgement: Beliefs (bye, bye beliefs)
Judgement is about making decisions about what is right and wrong, based on personal morals and ethics. Organizations can’t have morals and ethics. An organization is just a grouping of people held together by various agreements. However, the people in the organization can have morals and ethics. In fact, they always do have them, and are the only ones who can have them.
Morals and ethics are beliefs – beliefs about what is right and wrong. These beliefs come to us through various experiences in our lives and even through our genetic structure, apparently. Our belief systems are the result of a variety of mostly unnoticed influences. We arrive at a place in our lives called adulthood with a generally fully formed set of values – a mix of morals and ethics that are underpinned by a framework of beliefs. Again, they are generally unconscious, but we use them every day in large and small decision making. By unconscious I mean that they result in us knowing what to do in a situation inately – we don’t really have to think, we know what is right and wrong.
As a marketer striving to become the very best at the art of matching customers to the emotional experiences they want to have, a large and complex network of beliefs is a limiting factor on your path to becoming the very best at your art form.
It is not long before you bump up against situations that challenge your beliefs about what is right and wrong and you must right then judge the particular situation facing you to decide if you will go agree to buy into it. The situation could be as innocuous as being asked to script an ad for a second-rate product when you know a better product is available to customers. Or it can be more challenging, such as being asked to carefully craft cigarette marketing that will meet legal requirements but at the same time encourage the purchase of these deadly little emotional delivery devices. (‘deadly’ = judgement, of course!)
To the outside world you are already considered evil, as already noted. A wide range of societal ills are pinned on the marketer, from encouraging young women to starve themselves in order to meet unrealistic body image types to promoting first-person shooter computer games that train the brain that it is fun and totally acceptable to kill people. As marketers, promoting products and services that both help and harm people is standard fare. Beauty is in the proverbial eye of the beholder and the mind of participant. Young women don’t have to expose themselves to toxic role models. And Young men don’t have to play first-person shooter games. When asked point-blank if killing someone is fun and acceptable in everyday society the vast majority of young men will vehemently attest it is not.
In the end, the best marketing in the world is done from a judgement-less state of mind. It has to be. If marketers decided to be careful judges of all they do, based on a large framework of personal beliefs, they would be crappy marketers.
Insightful crafter of emotional experiences…or psychopath/sociopath?
So, how can you actually do marketing so that you are an insightful crafter of emotional experiences that enrich people’s lives rather than a psychopath/sociopath who preys on people’s emotional, intellectual, and developmental vulnerabilities?
And it is a simple principle. As you strive to be the very best marketer you can be, you inevitably question and challenge your own beliefs, in order to get them out the way. You want them out of your mental field of vision so as to gain a bias-free understanding of what customers really want and how best to deliver their experiences to them. All good. However, what happens when you are free of your beliefs and judgements and see only the perfect way to deliver emotional experiences to customers. What then? Do you simply act? For example:
“The best way to keep a war economy going is to have lots of developmentally vulnerable young men trained to go to war and want to kill people because it is fun and exciting to do so. We will market a video game that makes the killing of people emotionally irresistible to children and young men who are developmentally vulnerable to deep mental programming. This marketing will engage these young people to play the game, allowing it to lay a foundation of mental patterns and beliefs that war and killing is acceptable, exciting, and emotionally rewarding. I will do the very best I can to use naturally unconscious instincts and developmental vulnerabilities to get children and young men to play the game as much as possible, so that they don’t consciously challenge their beliefs in war and killing at an adult age, thereby allowing wars and killing to continue unabated, keeping a war economy going.”
Judgement-free marketing at its best!
Or in clearing your own beliefs and resulting patterns of judgement do you come to a point where you now have to take responsibility for your actions – be fully responsible so that you must now actually think about who you are and how you want to act in the world?
If you decide that you are responsible for how you go about in the world, but wish to stay judgement-free, you become a very powerful person, not just in marketing, but in the world in general. You now begin to act from a place of personal integrity, one that is conscious, created by choice, and thoughtful.
And, going back to a previous Marketing Manifesto, you decide on one of two courses of action:
To act from a place of fear.
To act from a place of love and hope, helping people have their emotional experiences, but in conscious manner for both you and them.
Acting from this consciously thoughtful place, deciding in real time what you choose to do to help people, is personal integrity at its very best.