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Marketing vs. sociopathy

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Tuesday August 28, 2012 )

“All marketers are liars” declared Seth Godin with his tongue somewhat firmly planted in his cheek.

The title of his best selling book from some years back remains very relevant today.

“Marketers succeed when they tell us a story that fits our worldview,” says Seth. BTW, that’s a link to the book’s Amazon page, but it’s not an affiliate link. I just like the summary of the book.

Basically, many consumers like being lied to – to a degree. For example, being led to believe a genuine X product is somehow better than a cheaper version of the same quality from elsewhere. People want to feel special for having paid the extra money and that is often how the marketing is geared. Everyone wins.

However, way too often marketers tread over the line.

“Marketers fail when they are selfish and scurrilous, when they abuse the tools of their trade and make the world worse. That’s a lesson learned the hard way by telemarketers, cigarette companies, and sleazy politicians.”

A sociopath is someone who has a lack of remorse, shame and consistently flouts the rules of society.

It’s been my experience the marketing world is chock full of sociopaths; people that believe lying is good marketing. What’s more, they often get paid a bundle to engage in sociopathic behavior.

These people don’t understand the difference between puffery and deceit in relation to advertising.

What is puffery?

Puffery is basically making a claim that the average consumer wouldn’t use as the sole or an important reason to make a purchase. For example: “we’re number 1!”.

Deception is a representation, omission or practice that misleads consumers and can influence their decisions about a product or service. For example, stating “voted number 1 in the world,” where such a vote hasn’t occurred.

Lying is easy; good marketing is hard.

Which are you – or what category does your marketing team fall into – good marketers, or common, garden variety sociopaths? If your team are the latter, how can you trust them with regard to your own interactions with them?


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