Thursday, October 15, 2020

Trust. Ha ha.

One of the many things that I blather on about day after day, week after week, decade after decade is B3: Brands Behaving Badly.

To evaluate the behavior of brands, I've made things simple for myself. Do the brands I interact with act like people I like? Do they treat me like I would like to be treated? Are they more like a friend and a help or a pickpocket and a fiend?

Most brands, most organizations, most companies you work for, most people you work for fall into the B3 category. They say one thing and do something else. Mostly rob you of your time in an ongoing effort to rob you of your money.

Here's one picayune example that just happened to me.

Like most everyone else in the United States, I am personally a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon and its ungenerous owner, Jeff Bezos. I pay for Prime. I have two Alexas. And I spend a few thousands of dollars a year on their sites buying everything from books to grapefruit knives, which are according to my wife a necessity--gracious-living-wise.

Especially during these gloomy Covid-riven months, there's no place I spend more money than Amazon, with the possible exception of the local supermarket where I seem to drop $300 every Sunday morning on a week's worth of groceries which somehow include nothing I actually enjoy eating.

In any event Amazon is a (um) prime example of a brand behaving badly.

"Alexa, what's today's weather?" I ask, innocently enough.

"It's 53 and clear going up to 65," Alexa responds. And then she adds "Don't forget the great deals on Prime Day."

"Fuck you. Alexa, never give me a commercial when I ask for the weather."

"I do not understand."

I'm sure the people of Amazon understand.

They--like the other bionic monopolies that run our lives--out-rob the robber barons of yore. Frick, Schwab and Carnegie sold 95% of the steel in the US--but they could only sell it once. Rockefeller sold 90% of the oil--but only once. Swift and Armour, 90% of the meat--but only once.

Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix, CVS, Walmart and their ilk sell you products, but own your data identity. They sell it and sell it and sell it and sell it. You and your endless stream of data are their product.

I don't know if humanity has anything left in it. I don't know if after 400 years of Trump and two days of Amy Coney Barrett if we have any outrage left. It certainly seems to me that we have bought our own evisceration hook, line and next-day-delivered sinker.

I don't know if there's any last best hope for humankind left. If there is, it probably ain't Amerika.

But if I were at a holding company, or breathing the rarefied but fetid air of the c-suite, my central concern would be how can brands be decent? How can we treat people like people, not targets or users? And how can we restore that most ephemeral human need--trust?

Trust is the stock in trade of communication.

And the behavior of most brands, most institutions, most agencies and most people seems to undo trust with their every move.

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