The Blog of Babel

This site sits on the crossroads of Languages, Linguistics, Social Media Market Engagement, Marketing Strategy, Innovation Strategy, Creativity Theory, Ancient Mythology & Egyptology. Its a very small crossroads in the middle of cyberspace - so stay for a while - pull up a chair and coffee. 

Evil Marketing Tactics & Organ Donation

The Dark Side of the Force


Is marketing evil? 

Over the weekend I read an article by Michael Serazio about "Why Marketing has become like Guerrilla Warfare" In the article he talks about how marketing has become more covert and underground. He argues that the line between content and advertisement has been blurred - it is no longer separate (TV Show vs. TV Ad) 

Much the same is now happening in marketing. Thanks to a confluence of technological change, commercial clutter, and audience habits, the old advertising-media model for campaigns has been falling apart in slow motion. Consumers are more adept than ever at avoiding anything that looks like advertising. And whether or not agencies and corporations want to admit it, the necessary recourse has been to create content that doesn’t look like advertising.
— Serazio

He talks about the marketing warfare metaphor "conducting marketing campaigns". I have to take pause, as this is a very dangerous argument. I talked about this linguistic phenomenon where certain metaphors are built into languages in a previous blog post.  In my argument I made a connection between the English of "time being money" (spend time, waste time, buy time) and American culture. I however understood the limitations of my argument. The marketing as warfare linguistic metaphor argument raises many questions: Is this metaphor only built into English? Was this metaphor created before guerrilla style tactics existed? Is this metaphor more a symptom of the business as warfare metaphor in English - with marketing being one department?

Serazio also bemoans the ever popular online content curation platforms such as huffpost. Their popularity has come at the cost of the "more trustworthy" hard copy resources, he gives the example of Newsweek going out of business. 

This article left me wondering - is marketing evil? Is guerrilla marketing evil? 

Marketing is Inherently Empty

I think that Serazio makes a couple good points. Marketing has changed - become covert, clever, gone underground. The line between advertisement and content has indeed blurred - look at the new "sponsored" Facebook posts that show up in your newsfeed.  I know that the word "evil" needless boils down or simplifies Serazio's argument - however is this method inherently evil?

At the end of the day, marketing is inherently nothing, zilch, goose eggs. Marketing is simply a vehicle that assumes the traits the the driver, nothing more. It is a medium of communication. 


Here is a great example of how the nature of marketing depends on its subject. 

Organ Donation: Ogilvy Brazil

Problem : Thousands die each year in need of an organ transplant

Behavioral Resource : Brazilian sports fans are known the world over for their fanaticism, dedication and craziness

Solution: Utilize this natural resource to re-ochestrate the discussion on organ donation

Tactics: Guerilla marketing

Outcome: Higher donation rates

Watch the video. 

This campaign is amazing and really demonstrates the potential of marketing - especially in achieving altruistic goals. While not all marketing is so wholesome in the sense that it touches such humanitarian goals, it shows that marketing is inherently empty. However is marketing ethically required to be overt, to let you know of it's existence? I think not. Sometimes in order for marketing to be effective it needs to blur the lines and sneak up on you - it just shouldn't lie to you in the process.

Marketers are in the business of adding value to life, marketing is not about deceiving or hiding the truth - such marketing is unethical. A good ad should not tell you lies and state facts that are otherwise blurred or untrue. Marketing is in the business of finding that little bit of perceived value hiding under your nose and taking the fullest advantage of it.

We would find that in a world without marketers we would all have the same goods, the same relationships and the same amount of money - but we would all be a little bit poorer. True marketing is not black magic - it is a little extra service that benefits us all. 

Marketers are the bankers of perceived value. We are happy to deposit in your account everyday because we have our own set of economic rules. In the perceived value economy there is no inflation and supply is unlimited. We can print money out of thin air - the sky’s the limit. Demand is only driven by our customer’s imagination and in this economy we can all be prosperous at no extra cost to anybody.
— Me

50 Tweets = Ability to Scientifically Predict Personality and Buying Behavior.

I will be saying this till I'm blue in the face - linguistics is a great tool to impact marketing, branding and segmentation. What you say - more specifically how you say it, describes a lot about your own personality. This article I found suggests that just by capturing 50 tweets companies can analyze and predict what products or services you are more likely to buy.  

But how? Let me describe a little bit of the science behind tweet psychology

"The quick foxed jumped over the mean lazy brown dog."

Ok. Now, you ready? This is going to be very, very, very hard. Pay attention. Please keep reading this sentence a bit, maybe this word "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" - I just need you to get further down this paragraph so you can't see the first sentence. GOOD - Don't look up! Now, how many non-verb/subject/adv/adj words were in the sentence about the fox from above. If you said 3, you're a super-freak - No, JK, you are normal however the point of this exercise is to demonstrate the transient nature of pronouns (and all other words that aren't verbs, adjs, advs or nouns for that matter).  Your brain is programmed to strip away this non-essential information like meat from a bone. Pronouns and all of these filler words (because, that, we, up, therefore, she, besides, however) are parsed out of normal conversation and forgotten. Your brain remembers the: Who, What, Where, When and Why - the meat. 


When in doubt, follow the crazy people

Pronouns and Nouns/Verbs/Adj/etc are filed in two completely different sections of the brain. One way to prove this is to study the effects of brain damage and speech. There are actually two different types of studied medical injuries that are a result of brain damage in two separate parts of the brain - the two injuries would speak thusly: 

You know, that stuff where those things move up and down and even though things come out
— Patient Bud Abbott
Mary knows keyboard keys help people print documents
— Patient Lou Costello

You'll notice that Bud Abbot has a hard time using anything but "filler words" (pronouns, prepositions) while Lou Costello  can't seem to find one single filler word - he only uses proper names and verbs. This is because Bud Abbot has received damage to the Nouns/Verbs/Adj/etc processing center of his brain while Lou Costello has received damage to his filler "social words" processing center.  

Twitter pronouns are key to marketing

So, now we agree that filler words, compared to nouns and verbs, are contained in different boxes in the mind? Would it surprise you to hear that pronouns and fillers are kept in the very front, youngest part of the brain - the "social" box? (which makes sense as they are social referents). Nope? Moving right along, how you use these social referents tells us a lot about how you live in a social world. For example, do you use the "I" pronoun more than the "we" pronoun? DID YOU KNOW - men use the pronoun "I" slightly more often then women, while women use the pronouns "You /He/She" slightly more often than men.

So users that tweet "s/he" more often and use causal words (because, cause, on account of) are more likely to be rational, logical, social thinkers - who would obviously gravitate to a certain kind of product or experience. Now the game is over. BAM, once the company has you profiled they can market to you more effectively.

Research has already shown that these traits link to buying behaviour. Agreeable people prefer Pepsi to Coke and if you link your product messages to excitement and adventure, it will appeal to the extroverts.
All well and good, but how can brands find out the psychological profiles of their potential customers? After all, no-one is going to go through a long personality test to give marketers the information they need to harass them.
The answer is via social media, specifically Twitter. IBM’s research has used software to analyse three months data from 90m Twitter users, matching the words people use against their values and needs. It took just 50 tweets to get a reasonable match for their personality and a very good fit from 200.