What Seth Said

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I’m not a marketing apologist.

For everything that marketing can be, it isn’t. The truth as to why I am proud to consider myself a marketer is because of what the profession (and the industry) can be. Just this past week, I published both a blog post and a podcast conversation with Scott Stratten (aka UnMarketing on Twitter) – you can read the blog post here: Are You In The Business of Awesome? and listen to the podcast here: SPOS #318 – How To Be Business Awesome (And UnAwesome) With Scott Stratten. Scott’s latest book, The Book Of Business Awesome – How Engaging Your Customers and Employees Can Make Your Business Thrive and The Book of Business UnAwesome – The Cost of Not Listening or Being Great At What You Do (yes, it’s a two-books-in-one deal) takes brands out of the corporate skyline and down to the streets and into the hands of the people. He uses the book as a platform to demonstrate that a brand is now a whole lot more than a perceived image or how a collective feels about a particular product or service. I have always questioned (deeply) Stratten’s approach to everything as a "market of one," meaning: just because a brand did something nice, it doesn’t make them a good company, and just because they do something stupid, it doesn’t mean that they will go bankrupt. In the end, these little Twitter spats never affect these corporations in a meaningful way. They come off as speed bumps on the highway to quarter-on-quarter profitability. On Twitter today, Jay Gilmore, said: "Listening to @mitchjoel‘s interview w/ @unmarketing and loved the notion that ‘the people are the brand’ well said." 

If the people are the brand. 

If the people are the brand, then it is incumbent on us – as a society – to rise above the quibbles and customer service issues that we’re so eager and willing to tweet about and post to Facebook, and to start holding brands accountable with the only thing that truly seems to matter: our money. If I had a dollar for ever time that I said, "Seth Godin is right," I would be a rich man. Before reading any further, please stop and read Godin’s blog post today titled, Corporation Are Not People. I’ll wait for you…

How do you feel?

Angered? Enraged? Apathetic? Despondent? I’d like to focus on one paragraph, in specific, from Godin’s post: "Corporations (even though it’s possible that individuals working there might mean well) play a different game all too often. They bet on short memories and the healing power of marketing dollars, commercials and discounts. Employees are pushed to focus on bureaucratic policies and quarterly numbers, not a realization that individuals, not corporations, are responsible for what they do."

It’s almost poetic, isn’t it?

Do you disagree with Seth (and if you do, you’re also disagreeing with me)? If the people are the brand (as Scott and Jay have said above), where does everything fall down? You can blame it on how we hide behind our policies and/or the corporation. You can blame it on the few bad apples that have spoiled the basket for the rest of us. You can even blame it on corporate greed. Seth has it right, doesn’t he?

"It’s not my problem… I just work here."

"Just following orders" is never a good excuse when a brand (or anyone else) is doing the wrong thing. The problem with all of this is that brands can be apologetic, move on and it has no bearing on their financial outcome. Here’s the dirty little secret: it doesn’t have to be that way. You see, if people are the brand, then people can stand up and change the brand. Just tweeting about it, blogging about it or sharing a story on Facebook isn’t going to do anything about it (unless you count an apology and one customer getting some kind of resolution as the solution). In today’s world, we are all consumer advocates. Now, we have the power to do something. To chose who we do business with and to provide – to everyone else – the ammunition and power for change. It’s true a customer service spat that gets resolved on Twitter is good for the brand and it’s good for the consumer. It’s also true that the plethora of these are turning into noise that many/most are beginning to ignore. The power of social media is in how we can all get ideas to spread.

People are the brand is an idea that I would like to see spread. You?


  1. People too are capable of being willfully ignorant and setting aside their morals to make a quick buck. Corporations inherit the good and bad traits of the people that make them up. The “corporation” didn’t autonomously decide to do something – some employee somewhere did.

  2. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” * Edmund Burke

  3. Better people = better corporations? Or is it just a few rotten apples? I often wonder. The majority of people I meet seem to be good, warm, family and community oriented. So, where are these evil-doers and is it truly their intent to be evil?

  4. I don’t know that I’m proud to be a marketer or even publicly consider myself one. The industry is overrun by big and small-time marketers who stumble through the “best practices” of getting big. Social media is a prime example. Everyone’s scrambling to execute the new “tried and true” method instead of simply being human and unique. So they create every post with an awkward call to action; they build up a Twitter audience with automated following and unfollowing; they fein caring for their customer because they are told that being human and accessible is what will make them successful. They trip over themselves performing actions instead of providing value.
    I’m pretty sick of it. It’s why I dig the entire “Unmarketing” concept.

  5. Well put, Jon. I just returned from holidays in a country that has invented customer service. They put on a smile, apologies easily, have the right word for the right circumstance – the human and accessibility traits you mentioned. This is what I call level 1 service where the customer obtains courtesy on the surface and hence good brand perception. But. But when something goes really wrong, level 2 marketing quicks in: in short, the status quo policy and the customer is left stranded.

  6. I may be a little bit slow today (at least in remembering my logic classes from CEGEP) because I am stuck on a line in the post Mitch?
    “Do you disagree with Seth (and if you don’t, you’re also disagreeing with me)?”
    So if I agree with Seth I am disagreeing with you?

  7. Weekends in the summer tend to be slower in our retail business and today was no exception. We were fully staffed, making it an easier call, when an issue occurred on an early afternoon delivery of an item (small part missing that made the article unusable) I asked the salesperson who had written the order to drive to Toronto and solve the problem. The customer was “astounded” that with in an hour the issue had been taken care of.
    Astounded is such a powerful word Mitch, on so many levels this has got me thinking….

  8. “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” I’ve always thought this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote is particularly important for brands and the understanding of brands.

  9. I agree that most people are good, and I doubt that they set out to be “evil”, but those actions tend to produce a net benefit for them (usually money). Nobody sets out to do evil things for evil’s own sake, but if it can make them rich, many may be willing to look the other way.
    It’s the compounding of those individual decisions that makes a corporation “good” or evil”.

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