Thursday, August 21, 2014

Change. Changes.

We live in a time where change comes at us at warp speed.

It was said in the mid-20th Century that Napoleon's armies had more in common with Roman armies from 1800 years earlier than they had with modern armies just 100 years later.

Surely, if I talk to a hipster about my black-and-white suburban childhood they will regard me as old as the hills.

Things change quickly, inexorably, in the blink of an eye.

Except when they change hardly at all.

I think about this because this photo is making the rounds, as is the horrific news from Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY.

I think what we need to delineate is that there are different types of changes. There's functional change, I'll call it. And spiritual change.

Functional changes are the changes we see and live through. From black and white TV to TV on a phone. From rotary phone to Skype in one generation. From 12 mpg gas guzzlers to driverless cars.

Then there's spiritual change.

Back after WWI when Woodrow Wilson was president, he was pressured to enact legislation to assert equal rights for African Americans. Hundreds of thousands had gone to war. More had worked in war industries. Many believed they had earned "full citizenship."

Today, we'd call Wilson a racist. He believed it would take hundreds and hundreds of years for real, substantive, attitudinal change. Not just legislative change.

Fifty years later by political sleight of hand, LBJ got the Civil Rights Act passed and the Voting Rights Act. The biggest change in race relations since the Emancipation Proclamation.

Fifty years after that, Barack Obama was elected President.

But have we really spiritually changed?

I think one of the issues in our industry is that we conflate these two types of changes into one. We see a new gizmo and say "that will change everything."

We don't look at the underlying (perhaps innate) human behavior the gizmo is meant to change. We assume because there's a new machine, or a new app, or a new website, PEOPLE will change.

Though I've used race relations as an example, this is not about race relations. This is about our need as marketers to go beyond shiny-new-objectisms and get to the core of fundamental human attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.

For instance, I believe, regardless of the splendor of new devices, man has a fundamental need when he comes home from work to sit on a soft seat and scratch. I think it will take more than a new remote, or a nifty app, or a slick website to change that.

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