Character and marketing: How it works for good and evil

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isis video
A screen shot from the beginning of a gruesome ISIS video, readily available on he web. (I won't link to the actual video and the horrors to follow because that would be evil in itself.)

Sometimes I cringe when I see evil dressed up with the thin (but effective) marketing veneer. On a political/government level (if you don’t agree with the message) you would call the content and message propaganda. You don’t need to look far to see how damaging this can be: ISIS videos and social media capturing the attention of disaffected young individuals to drive them to murder-suicide plots, and on the other side, Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric with thinly disguised code words that send all the right signals to the racist right. (I don’t know if Trump is a racist; and he may well make a great US president, but the racist fringe certainly has “bought” his message.)

The stories work, they are effective, they attract supporters willing to give their life, soul and cash to the cause.

On the other side, we can see ethical, honorable behaviours; often earning much less publicity and therefore less widespread impact. Yet these contributions thankfully may be as effective in marketing, if well targeted and designed for the community they serve. You see signs of this sort of marketing success when business leaders genuinely provide community and charitable support, but don’t need to brag about it, or ask for buildings to be renamed after them. Yet word gets around, and they achieve the rewards from the trust they’ve genuinely earned.

In both situations, for good or evil, effective marketing magnifies and reflects the underlying character of the person or organization sending out the message. Dishonest marketing might try to disguise the dishonest character; but the truth eventually emerges.

We should appreciate marketing’s power, for good or evil. Paradoxically, the bigger the good or evil, perhaps the more effective the marketing, because the cause invites passionate response and multiplied media publicity.

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