Friday, May 3, 2024


One of the issues with today's marketing world is the constant commentary you can find about anything and everything. And marketers' concomitant impulse to be always commented upon themselves. 

Even if, like I, you care nothing about any kardashian, jenner, martha stewart, swift or beyonce, there's no way of avoiding the daily tsunami of crap that washes over us that's all about them.

The incessance of trivia is, well, incessant. And, it's enough to make even a sane person fairly out of their mind with the sense that the march of progress, or at least interest, is leaving them behind.

So we have mayonnaise companies making sneakers. Plastic cheese companies creating hair-dos. We have the world's largest plastic polluter advertising its cleanliness. The never-ending-ness of banality is never-ending.

What the marketing industry has is a cacophony of tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. 

Here's a sports page example. We're about 15-percent of the way through the current baseball season. Teams have played about 25 of 162 games, not counting the endless playoffs modern sports subjects us to. Just now I saw this in my Twitter feed from the Times' terrible offshoot, The Athletic.

To me, this is the journalistic equivalent of looking at a test-tube of sperm and writing, "Who has the greatest lifetime earning potential?"

In other words, history is long. And we're judging it by the microsecond. Just as building a brand is a long time effort and we're trying to do it one tweet, or attention-grab, at a time. With no lighthouse to guide everything we do, how we behave, where we've been and where we want to get to.

History is long.

And we're having apoplexy 500 times a day because we think moments matter, more than years, or even decades.

Late last week I finished a fairly scholarly book by a professor called Eric H. Cline.

The words "eerie relevance" via Adam Gopnik's cover blurb sold me on it. Though I often stay away from books published by university presses. They can be as esoteric as a 177-page deck on marketing mayonnaise.

The point of this book, the point of my post, is simple. 

For years people have said the "Sea People" were responsible for the global collapse of civilization that happened 3000 years ago.

The truth of the matter is anything that happens--from a brand finding a place in your brain, to a person getting elected president, to someone returning your smile on the subway, is multi-variant. There are literally millions of inputs and millions more questions that can't be answered about why something happens or what makes something important or lasting.

Cause and effect is really cause/time/coincidence/cause/sneeze/misplaced synapse/cause/time/oddness--and effect.

The collapse of civilizations did happen 3000 years ago. From Greece, to what's today Turkey, to Egypt, to what's today Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran and elsewhere.

There was global climate change. There were volcanoes. Earthquakes. New technology. Masses of peoples moving. There was plague. There are a thousand factors behind every seismic movement.

Anyone who tries to if-then cause and effect is a charlatan, a politician, a 'business leader' or worse: in advertising.

If we, as humans and as marketers, could stop looking at the moment and start thinking of years, decades and more, we'd have a better calculus on reaching people. Instead of trying to be in the moment, we should try to transcend moments, and approach foundation.

I know this is kind of heavy for an ad blog.  I also know it's more than a little inchoate. I also know it doesn't work on a QBR--a quarterly business review. 

That said, the most successful brands in my lifetime haven't changed their advertising in literally half-a-century: Apple and Nike.

But brands, agencies, holding companies and careers, rise and fall like nations, leaders and empires. They always will. 

Studying those rises and falls makes sense.

Not trying to enact them on a minute by minute basis.

That's a tale told by an idiot.

As usual, signifying nothing.

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