Eugene Ionesco on ideologies

"Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together."

What comes first in your business: ideology or information? This is a tough one (or perhaps not). Your company culture and unique industry outlook are part of your collective consciousness. So what happens when information about your customers' desires conflict with your ideology? Or worse, when your customers' desires conflict with their own well-being?

Here are a few examples:

  1. Marketing "experts" advise us to treat customers with respect by asking them for permission to communicate with them, and then by not repeating, repeating, repeating with indistinguishable direct mail, email and phone calls. Instead we should make the product, service or event remarkable and they'll simply beat a path to our doors (or websites). But take a look around . . . at reality. Marketers continue to ignore that sage advice, because the information tells them otherwise. It tells them that if they ignore that little bit of marketing ideology, they can make their "numbers"  and . . . get this . . . customers will even come back for more.
  2. The same "experts" advise marketers to do what's in the best interest of potential customers. For example, restaurants should develop and market healthy meals. The only problem with that ideology is that customers don't want healthy meals. They simply think that they do. That's why marketers promote chicken on salads for lunch (Wendy's Homestyle Chicken Strips Salad, eaten with one pack of ranch dressing, contains a whopping 670 calories and 45 grams of fat. More than any burger on the menu). Or they simple say "b.s." and create the Enormous Omelet Sandwich, which features three bacon strips, a sausage patty, two eggs, two slices of cheese, and 730 calories!
  3. This is my personal favorite (because I'm enmeshed in it). Marketing experts continue to advise getting rid of the hype and, instead, providing more depth. For example, if you're running a business event or meeting, give people content. That's what they want: content and connections, which will help them improve their businesses and their lives. But the information says otherwise. That's why the highest fees go to the biggest celebrities, and not to the most insightful presenters. Don't believe me? Look it up. Halley Berry receives $100 -$500k for corporate appearances. Wal-Mart paid her six figures to appear at its 2004 shareholders meeting. Trying to get paid attendees to your next event? Who do you think will draw more people, the Desperate Housewives or Peter Senge? Be honest.
  4. And last, but not least, this sage piece of advise: tell the truth. Be authentic. It makes the best business sense. So riddle me this? Why has Kevin Trudeau's book of lies, Natural Cures They Don't Want You to Know, sold nearly 6 million copies at $29.95 each? This from a guy who spent two years in prison for credit card fraud, and who recently settled a false advertising charge with the FTC for $2 million and is permanently banned from using infomercials to sell his products.

So what's my point? Am I advising you to dump ideology in favor of information? Never! Selling out will suck the passion from your veins. I'm simply asking a question. If we want corporate marketers to change their ideologies (and thus their approach to us as customers), doesn't the responsibility ultimately fall on us? As long as we help them achieve their goals (by responding to their offerings), shouldn't they continue on their ROI ways; especially in this age of relentless pressure on the bottom line? How about it? And you experts? Why should marketers listen to you, if they get better results by not listening to you? I look forward to your insights. And please . . . try to be a tiny bit pragmatic.