A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

Calling All Marketers: Time to Pay It Forward (For Real)

“Objects of design and desire are never going to scratch the itch, in short. Only the moral imperative of self-actualization (because we no longer have to struggle to survive — the sheer nastiness of this global recession aside) will stand as the single most important driver in people’s lives. That’s our talisman as marketers.”

- Brendan Howley, Novelist | Screenwriter | Activist | Partner, Fresh Baked Entertainment

We, as marketers, are sitting on a goldmine, a wealth of opportunity. Not the kind that will make us rich in a material sense (although I suppose it could as well), but in a way that can help us formalize our roles as individuals in this world.

You see, there are all these theories and declarations about ‘social media’ (which is an oxymoronic term, by the way), and how we can convert engagement into sales (which we can, but I digress, and so?).

We talk about digital as the new, new, new thing, even though many times its core functions are really no different than the way we’ve been behaving as slightly evolved apes for centuries... Pointing and clicking (grunting and f------).

We talk about ‘integrated’ solutions as though we’ve come up with a wiz-bang framework for manipulating the shit out of people without them knowing it (why, when we don’t have to?).

Inevitably, we can’t help but call into question what got us here, and where this is all going.

Why was ‘CRM’ ever considered a discipline at all, when relationships are all we really have in the first place? (It should have been called Customer Relationship Manipulation.)

Further, why is ‘cause marketing’ still considered a separate marketing discipline, when people are killing each other over natural resources? When children miss school because they have to walk miles just to fetch a bucket of water? Are we afraid to fully commit our brands to improving the world, even though we violate labor laws, pollute the environment, evade corporate taxes and STILL allow executives and board members to take home grossly inflated bonuses... Er, excuse me, ‘earn outs’?

Is this all some sort of joke... On us?

At the beginning and end of each day, there are billions of people out there ready and willing to join the conversation, and to fulfill on the promise of being better members of society. Of empowering culture at large. Yet when we invite them in, we most often exploit them and then leave them without a proper goodbye, or, with nothing to grab onto or ruminate over... Or very little, if anything, with which they can ACT.

We (as in most of us marketers) act like we’ve never been in a relationship before. As though a relationship will run itself and work itself out, find merit of its own accord, and magically acquire some sort of following in the process.

Marketing (and advertising) in a social sense — in a LIFE context — is about mobilizing thought in the form of meaningful action. It is about embracing the realities of life and recontextualizing them, through rigor, consequence, goodwill and, dare I say, enlightenment.

If you don’t believe me, then hark back to the golden era of our industry, when the likes of Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, Hal Riney and Lee Clow told stories about the human condition... All expressed through a lens supported by a mattress, a wine cooler, a financial institution or a big, white box with keys that sat atop our desks. And yes, these were experiences that produced sales, but more importantly, they produced relationships that resulted in repeat sales.

Cutting back to present day, here are a couple of recent examples of how we can create experiences and pay them forward:



Clearly, we are only scratching the surface of our potential.

I created ‘CultureCasting’ as a bullshit term (in a sea of buzzwords, including my own) to prove a larger point that socializing media is about inspiring people to act. Further, it is meant to illustrate that people sell products and services to other people, by way of experiences that are meaningful. Period.


It’s time to pay it forward, folks. For real.