Does Marketing Make You Cynical?

A common practice in the marketing space is for people to diminish what you do, state that it is below them, help rebrand your stuff in a negative light, and then at some point in the future basically clone the idea (maybe with a few new features, maybe not) and then push their clone job aggressively as though it is revolutionary.

Another shady practice is when you ask people for advice and they say "no don't do that" and then as soon as they hang up the phone they send off emails to their workers telling them to do that which they told you was a bad idea.

I don't think that the average person or the average marketer is inherently sleazy. But I think when you look at the people who are the most successful certainly a larger than average percent of them engaged in shady behavior at some point.

To keep building yield and returns at some point short cuts start to look appealing. And so you get

None of the above is a cynical take or an opinion at this point. That was simply a list of 3 stated facts.

Create a large enough organization with enough people and you can always make something shady seem like it was due to the efforts of a rogue individual, rather than as company policy. A key to doing this effectively within a large organization is to publish public thoughts that are the exact opposite of your internal business practices.

The word "propaganda" was a bad word, as that is what the Germans were using, so Edward Bernays had to give it another name - public relations.

Recently the Google public policy blog published a post titled Celebrating Copyright. Around the same time Viacom leaked the following internal Google document

You can't get any clearer than that!

In the past when I claimed Google operated as-per the above I was accused of being cynical or having sour grapes. But when you tie together a lot of experiences and observations others lack and you are not conflicted by corporate business interests you have the ability to speak truth. You are not always going to be right, but the lack of needing to cater to advertiser interests and filter means you will typically catch a lot of the emerging trends before they show up in the media - whatever that is worth.

If you're ever confused as to the value of newspaper editors, look at the blog world. That's all you need to see. - Eric Schmdit

Speaking of the media, have you heard about the Middle American Information Bureau

The Century of Self is an amazing documentary, well worth buying

Published: April 16, 2010 by Aaron Wall in publishing & media


Kris Day
April 17, 2010 - 2:54pm

I saw this many years ago and it is one of the most influential films in my life. Very important to view and understand. Better to see the world in this cold glare...
His book (Propaganda) is also very informative. I was amazed at how many things I took for granted as being part of my culture came from Madison Ave. I'm strictly oatmeal for breakfast these days ;)
Politics is where marketing begins to turn the stomach: "war on terror", "pro life", "no child left behind", "welfare baby", "axis of evil", "iron curtain", etc. The actual policies behind the slogans are something else!
Supermodels love shiny white teeth is where most people's marketing is at, including me. At that level, it's lots of fun.

April 17, 2010 - 11:01pm

A couple well-known recent books on political framing are George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant and Frank Luntz's Words That Work.

April 19, 2010 - 8:58pm

That google document is vomitous.

Aaron, our political views are pretty opposite on most things, but we're definitely on the same side of the road when talking about Google's shadowy side.

They're talking about EXTORTING money from content publishers by FORCING them to give free access to their premium content? Why Google? Did you not make enough money EXTORTING ridiculous bid rates through Adwords last year? What did their latest financial statement say - an increase of ~20% in total revenue over 1st quarter last year?

How about sucking it up Google and stop milking every last cent out of your publishers and clients.

And speaking of their financial report: how hypocritical of Google to cry about not having easy access to content while at the same time they choose to NOT send out a press release of the financial results, instead forcing everyone to go to their stupid financial page. I was half expecting to see adsense ads thrown into the content...

April 29, 2010 - 7:45pm

I'm sadly reminded of the above saying to be correct again. It's more disturbing to see Matt Cutts and others like him are trying to convince otherwise.

Aaron, while you are in the fast lane of capitalism, I appreciate the fact that you express your thoughts straightforward. I try to do the same in my life and it's good to see I'm not alone. I'm not an SEO expert, nor do I have a blog. I'm a programmer / designer and I own an e-commerce site dreaming if I can make it to the top of search engines one day. I follow your blog though because not only I get information, but I also see someone saying "it's not ok" . Good work.

April 30, 2010 - 12:15am

I am not saying that what Google does is wrong. ;)

What I am saying is that them positioning themselves as being the good guys while doing any sleazy thing they can get away with is inconsistent, and I like to put the excerpts right next to each other so it is stated on the record in a clear way, so people know not to trust them (sorta like what Google's search engineers just did to FaceBook).

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