My last article, “Passion, Part 1,” addressed the subject of reinserting passion into marketing. I wrote the article in a fit of rage in 10-minutes’ time (maybe that shows). And, quite frankly, the article is not all that interesting in and of itself. But the aftermath of it is…
Chris Locke and I were on the phone the morning after that article ran. We were in the middle of discussing Italo Calvino‘s relevance in modern business when our inboxes chimed almost simultaneously with the familiar tone of arriving email. We had received the same email — an impassioned rant from a woman who works in marketing at a company on the East Coast.
She was really upset by that article. Upset that all of these interesting ideas had become nothing more than an object for her bosses to make fun of her with. She was pissed that I was wasting her time with such drivel. She wanted something that people wouldn’t laugh at her for talking about — but screw it, she was unsubscribing from the email newsletter that delivered the piece.
Suddenly, I heard Chris typing. Within seconds, my email inbox contained the message he had just sent to “Jill,” cc’d to me:
Are you on the rag, or what?
Now, as I’m hoping you’ve gathered by now, I’m the type of person who usually isn’t bothered by the trivialities of things such as caring what my readers think of my writing. But Chris’s response blew me away. Somewhere between laughter and shock, I recovered my senses enough to wonder, What the hell was he thinking? Every male that’s ever been in a relationship with a woman knows that you do not enter that territory. It’s just insulting.
And then the strangest thing happened, Jill responded — with an apology.
Well, maybe “apology” is too strong a word. But she responded favorably. She was as stunned by Chris’s email as I was. Stunned way past being insulted. It jarred her reality, and her email began to talk about the pressure her bosses were putting on her and about the frustration that comes from working with people who will do anything to make a buck. She was saying she was sorry for taking it out on me!
Now I was really stunned. What the hell had just happened?
Those of you who have sent me nasty emails over my articles (you know who you are) have received responses that were exploring this happening. They usually went like this:
- Dear Joe/Jim/Bob-
When you start writing me a check, I’ll give a f*^& what you think.
And you know what? Nearly every single time I’ve done that, the emailer and I have gone on to have really interesting conversations that turn out nicely (even if we disagree).
Here’s what I’m not implying:
- That customer relationship management (CRM) should be based around the idea of insulting all those daring enough to complain.
- That money should be the driving force in whether you care what someone thinks.
- That women should complain only when their lunar cycle is properly aligned.
I am, however, willing to suggest that human beings are deeply conversational creatures. That something at our core relates to storytelling. And that core responds to the essential element of integrity in storytelling. That essence is evident in these startling responses, in the rap music of Eminem and Tupac Shakur, in the writings of Mark Twain — in short, in voices that come from a place of honesty.
Marketing is missing this essential honesty. Its preoccupation with selling precludes its speaking in a language that would actually engender true attention and loyalty. And every time that I say that, marketers everywhere respond with outrage and astonishment, either with “We have integrity” or “If we don’t focus on selling, what’s the point?”
Unbelievable as it sounds, selling should be a tertiary result of marketing’s primary efforts. Engaging in the timeless art of storytelling is the prime directive. Otherwise, all of the return on investment (ROI) in the world amounts to nothing more than cheap, used-car-salesman hucksterism.
As for Jill, we’re all friends now — and she still reads our email sends.
The great lie of CRM is this: “Know your customers.” The great truth is, “Know thyself.” But that’s another story…
Coming soon: An actual article about personalization and further attempts to rebuild marketing via the wisdom of hip-hop.
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