Un-Monetizing Our Culture
(This post was originally posted as an interactive debate on Google+)
We all know that (in the western world at least) we have a capitalistic economy and that most of our companies’ main objective is to make money. This isn’t new and, reasonably balanced, it’s not necessarily a problem. Capitalism can be a very successful model if it’s properly utilized. But today, I don’t really want to talk about politics or economics. But rather about culture. Our culture.
What bothers me is that this aspect of the economy and the money factor in general is very much inlayed in our culture. And this, to me is not the consequence of our economy only. It’s also a consequence of the way we have fun, the way we spend our free time, and the way we educate our kids. In a nutshell, our mindset.
Let me give you two examples.
The first one is sport. We today have sportmen that have a greater salary than a doctor, a professor or a CEO could ever make. Not that they deserve less, but that the main factor that encourages younger generations to do sport is now money, rather than passion or pride of representing their country. As a French person, I will not detail which event I have in mind, you’ve probably perfecty understood me (cf. FIFA World Cup 2010).
This is a great proof that, outside the business world, more and more money, doesn’t necessarily lead to better. As if it was the case in the business world anyways.
My second example is casinos. We, today, build “leisure” places where people, for only activity, will spend their money in a very hazardous manner.
Casinos, and gambling in general, is known to constitute a poison for both middle and low classes (again only enriching the already wealthy), and for the economy in general since for a strong economy we need a strong middle class. Moreover, it is emphasizing the climate of money-centered systems our brains live in, and which we really should get rid of in the next decades.
Adding to that the “addiction” problem most excessive gamblers are victims of, we know that casinos are meant to make you lose money and that even if you don’t lose the first time, it will be the times after. Hence, the most vulnerable of us are again the ones who are the most susceptible to be the victims of the biggest losses.
As a concrete example of how far we have been: in some American states, “gambling” is a sufficient reason to borrow up to $5 000 to the bank. Who will say that banks don’t play with our money after that? Again, this is not the banks’ fault, but our culture’s.
Through these few lines, I didn’t mean to have a condescending look on both overly-payed football players or gambling fans (I, myself, enjoy playing poker a lot), and I had in mind a lot more examples; with some very monetized TV-reality shows for example, the fact that younger generations think that to become an artist you should necessarily go through X-Factor. I just wanted to bring attention to what could be some of the factors that are holding our culture back. Again, I wasn’t talking about economics or politics. Solely about the only thing that will be reminded of us in 300 years: our culture.
My dilemma is, even though they are legal, these phenomenons I just talked about are subjects to very liberal laws. In one hand, we clearly have a problem of mindsets in our society, on the other hand, I really do not trust politicians. Who does?
I am against a mother state, and am really not for authoritarianism. Still, aren’t there some adjustments to be made in order to un-monetize our culture?
Would it be reasonable to limit the amount you can spend to buy a soccer player (now considered as products)?
Or would it be taking away people’s freedom to spend their money as they want if we banned casinos?
Or could we distribute the casino’s profits to the poorest like we do with taxes through “state casinos” (an idea of my friend Marwann Al Saadi)?
Or should our culture be un-monetized at all?
Taking the role of the devil’s advocate, I could say that casinos create a lot of employments, and probably represent a huge industry. I could also say that sportmen probably deserve their salary and the price they are “valued” at.
Now, we might disagree on a lot of what I wrote. This is why I am asking for some wise comments to enlighten my understanding of our limping culture.
Debate going on here.
Credits to Jim Larson for the picture.
My Mother Is On Twitter
Today, I helped my mother signing onto Twitter.
This title represents everything that is exciting and also disturbing about the world we live in. I realized -you probably did too if you’re interested in technology- how important it is to consider and absorb changes in our environment.
Therefore, I keep asking my self one question; are we creating faster than we can make good use of what we actually create? Let’s put aside here global warming and waste of resources that are a scourge for humanity and that already prove my point. Instead, on this blog I will prefer to share with you some ideas about how to understand and integrate technology changes to always make a better use of it, from an industrial as well as a cultural and social point of view.
Without pretention, I would like to provoke debates through what I write, cause it is in disagreement that things get stimulating and often constructive to me.
A World Without Advertising?
For a long time advertising has been a very good communication tool. From the customer’s point of view, as well as from the company’s. For a long time, it permitted to give a broad information about a large quantity of products in many markets and industries.
The means of communication kept evolving and innovating. From paper to radio spots and billboards, from TV spots to Internet banners and pop ups.
Then, what’s different now from few decades ago when I think advertising was gainful for the customers? Two things have changed to my eyes.
The first thing is internal to marketing; the content and purpose of advertising changed. What are customers supposed to gain through advertising? The theory of perfect competition, and more precisely its part about information transparency, wants that by giving homogeneous information to each of us, we will be more able to choose the product that fits us, at a price we like.
But let’s not be silly. Nowadays marketing is at first about money. If you have a large capital, you’ll have the ability to put million dollars in an advertising campaign an therefore buy 12 seconds of broadcasting during a prime time, and if you have billions it will be broadcasted at the half time of the final of a football game.
You will probably retort that I am being unfair. And I kind of am. Most companies certainly believe in their products, thus it is normal for them to want to make a maximum people aware of it. But I think that the way the money is spent in advertising today is not how it should be. Don’t start rolling your eyes, I will not go into explaining how the world’s advertising expenses together could feed half of the planet, let us stay focused on our topic. I have hard times believing that Coca-Cola and Pepsi are making information transparency any better by fighting each other with millions and billions dollars. Same for Nike and Adidas, or Microsoft and Apple.
Indeed, last year Indra K. Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, realized that and decided to cease all advertising of its soda, then she gave explanations:
“We know [Pepsi]’s good, and every one’s pretty happy with the overall taste, so why spend all our time worrying about what other people think? […] Frankly, it just feels sort of weird and desperate to put all this energy into telling people what to drink. If they don’t like it, then they don’t like it. […] PepsiCo is now what it should have been all along: a company that just makes soda, and doesn’t get caught up in trying to make everyone like it. […] Look, Coca-Cola is a terrific product. […] Millions of people choose it over Pepsi every day. Are those people wrong? Of course not. Concepts like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ shouldn’t even apply. It’s a soft drink.”
I am not delusional, and I know that we can not expect all CEOs to be as brainy as Nooyi. And I don’t think that marketing is totally useless, too. Though, this kind of decision should make more leaders think about how marketing budgets could be spent differently.
The second thing is external and refers to the environment in which marketers operate. With the evolution of the Internet and social medias, one more factor was added to the marketing techniques: the People. Previously, marketing managers had to make people like the advertisings in order to make them buy the product. Now they need to consider that people not only buy the product, but tell it and, indirectly, promote it. Hence, today, the main mean of marketing communication is the People. And the trend is seriously going toward that.
Good consumers, people that want relevant informations about a product, in 2010, do not refer to advertising, I hope. They read, they try and mostly use the internet where they can find a huge range of product comparator websites, and consumers communities. This, has made a big shift in information transparency.
So, of course, that must be painful for marketers to consider that now People have their word to say about their marketing campaigns and even their product, and this at a large scale. In one click, you can reach more people than you’ll ever see in your life. This is how a buzz is formed: your vote is not the action of buying anymore, it is the action of telling.
As a company, you can find yourself in two positions, either you sell products that are made for the customer, and therefore you can benefit from that a lot, because these customers will often defend you, and even sell your products by telling. Or you act like many multinational corporations whose products are not naturally needed and wanted by the customers, and for which it requires to create a need. Guess how you create the need for a product?
If advertising does not exist to advise you but to create a need inside you, well I do not think it is indispensable anymore, and encourage all companies to move to the first position.
Now, being rational, can we really build a world without advertising? Can we simply omit the fact that advertising finances most of our newspapers, TV programs but also sport teams and sometimes schools or foundations?
And even if we suppose that the world suddenly gets philanthropic, and that we do not need financing from advertising anymore, would it be technically feasible to ban advertising? As said William Coffin on this blog,
Any politician wanting to ban advertising would find himself up against powerful lobbies. He may even be told his idea is in breach of one interpretation of her country’s hallowed constitution. […] Advertising, after all, can be interpreted as free speech, and advertisers regarded as humans, legally speaking.
And I support this idea. Except that freedom of speech does not have the same sincerity when it is brought by money.
Recently, consumers started fighting against advertising. Also, many governments started thinking and even applying some regulations. Because if it remains legitimate to be a victim of advertising when it is on TV or radio, as you make the decision of consuming these media, it is not normal that it still operates its intrusion in your life when you just walk in the street.
And as William Coffin also adds in his article:
[…] We should ensure constitutions written by dead folk can be rewritten by the living: change is in the hands of the people.
To end this article, I want to remind that I do not think that marketing should be banned anywhere and we could not anyways. I am just asking marketers to try to be smarter, even though advertising brainwashing has been proven to work, they should not want to drown the mass in their campaigns but rather try to make individuals experience something and share.Quoting Joseph Jaffe, expert in new marketing thought consulting, in his March 09’ presentation,
People will not watch content [marketer’s] way anymore, and they will not be forced to watch advertising either. […] Marketers should get out the advertising game, before they get out of the market.
This is not a threat.