vorpal sabre

Our Responsibility As Marketers



They say that every major industry has a player who works for more than the good of their bottom line. Large players that have achieved scale, the saying goes, have a responsibility to grow by nurturing the industry backdrop against which they have come to prominence.

As we had a few hours of intermittent Facebook outages this morning, I’ve had a bit of time to step back and reflect on what something like this standard might look like in a morally ambiguous space like Marketing.

I thought a little about the growing outrage over Dove’s most recent misstep in its otherwise widely heralded “Real Beauty” campaign.

I am a firm believer in Dove: but I have always hated this campaign.

I’ll spare the diatribe, but my reasoning goes something like this. If a brand wants to make a claim that it’s working to change the discrepancies in the way its target audience views itself, then it ought to follow through on the hype with a little bit of product re-positioning.

If you’ve ever walked through a hygiene products aisle, you may have a sense for what I’m talking about. There you’ll find more permutations of a virtually identical offering from Unilever than one can reasonably inventory. (I happen to visit my grocery store during the nightly restocking, so I’ve measured this, too.)

The trouble is, that a brand this size gets heralded as being “part of the solution,” while it gets to continue the problematic behavior that created the status quo in the first place.

This isn’t kind of doublespeak doesn’t just happen in this one case. We’ve redefined terms like “authenticity” or “genuine” to refer to a set of behaviors that are readily manufactured. We’ve gotten caught up in conflating “real” moments with our best moments.

And those actions have effects on users writ-large. Scores of voices caution against taking the content you find on a friend’s Instagram seriously. That’s the trouble, we’re the trouble.

I don’t know what the answer to this is, and the truth is that I don’t know that there is one: but I do have a bit of advice.

I try to take a moment before I push anything to more than 1,000 people (which…is well below the floor I usually set for any target,) to reflect on what it is I’m saying and what expectations it is I’m playing with.

It’s only ever a few minutes, and it won’t change the world, but at least for that brief span of time, somebody is thinking about the outcome.

If we all did a little more of that, I think the world would be a much brighter place.