With all of the finger-pointing and polarization taking place in the news and on social media these days, I got to thinking, who are the “they” that everyone else is always blaming? Who is this evil “other?” Who is the media, who are the corporate interests, who are our leaders, the Liberals, the Republicans, etc. If you’ll notice, the “other” is always categorized as a “they.” And that’s when it hit me: they are none other than the collective “WE.” They are simply a group of individuals among us, wishing to have their voices heard, their ideas taken seriously. And at the end of the day, we’re all just people battling it out in a competition for ideas.
Never before in history has there been a time when so many people across the world had access to such a wide range of viewpoints. More than ever, we need marketers, but not for the reasons you might think.
Because marketers ultimately tell stories and build experiences that lead us to collectively form new ideas, habits, and loyalties, a marketer by definition takes on a much bigger responsibility than simply building brands and helping to push products and services within the marketplace. Marketers craft and sell ideas. They shape cultures, orchestrate movements, and bring awareness to causes and plights that matter. To better explain, watch this short below video about “the magic of marketing” from the American Marketing Association.
“Behind every new idea, behind every innovation, behind every craze and every revolution, there was a marketer. A magician.”
The Link Between Social Responsibility and Marketing
Two weeks ago, Alexis Jones gave a TEDxUniversityofNevada talk about sexual assault and violence against women. The topic was controversial as TED not only changed the talk’s title, but also disabled comments. What’s funny about this, is that nothing Jones said about sexual assault or violence against women stood out to me as much as something she said about media messaging. At eight minutes into the video, she stated (in reference to the next generation of young men):
We have to make them aware of their programming. We have to get the most distracted generation in history to pause long enough to be introspective, to ask the hard question, says who? We know that they consume 10 hours of media a day. Media that glorifies violence against women, that’s inherently disrespectful, that’s hypersexualizing and objectifying. We know that they consume 3,000 brand images every day, spoon-feeding them a definition of manhood that’s been hijacked by a cheap cologne-wearing Ken doll lacking a moral constitution, self-respect and authentic confidence.
For weeks this question of “says who” stuck with me. You’re right, I thought. Says who? Who are they? And why are we listening to “them,” and not us? But that’s when I realized that we, the marketers, are the ones effectively helping to create “them.” We are them, and they are us. Watch the video below beginning at eight minutes to hear this question posed in Jones’ own words:
You see, I believe Alexis Jones struck a very deep chord here that gets at the very root of our societal issues. This question has less to do with violence against women, but everything to do with our programming.
Having majored in journalism I spent plenty of time in college learning about the impact of media messaging on women, how unrealistic magazine ads can lead to unhealthy identities and eating disorders, or how scantily clad women on television set the precedent for what constitutes socially acceptable dress in public. We also spent time learning about how media impacts children, how 30-second commercials on TV have contributed to decreased attention spans among the younger generation, how advertisements for sugar cereals and fast food helped contribute to higher levels of obesity. It’s what the basis of the movie Idiocracy was all about.
I recently discovered a vision board found in old box dating back to high school depicting a description of “the perfect boyfriend.” I laughed out loud when I noticed that Billabong board shorts, Oakley sunglasses, and CK One cologne were three of the baseline requirements: all three brands that were popular when I was in high school. As much as we probably can’t stand to admit it, that “spoon-fed definition of manhood” that Jones’ referred to is real. And it probably came not only from the teenage magazines I was reading at the time, but the commercials I was watching, as well as the product placement in TV shows.
Well the above-mentioned example is actually really quite benign, the point is that marketing messages matter. Take a moment to consider the brands you love, the things you think are cool, and dare to ask yourself the question: “says who?”
Now it’s your turn! Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.