A lot of people dislike lawyers, they have a bad reputation among the plebes of the world. That’s understandable; the vast majority of them are greedy, conniving bastards. However I wonder why people in marketing and sales don’t have as bad a reputation as lawyers. Those in press relations annoy the hell out of me. They lie, stretch the truth, use semantics to mislead, and do anything to sell a product or service, even if it means being wholly unethical.
Edward Bernays, a supposed pioneer in the field of public relations, said, “When I came back to the United States, I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace. And propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans.. using it. So what I did was to try to find some other words, so we found the words Council on Public Relations”. Bernays saw public relations as an “applied social science” that uses insights from psychology, sociology, and other disciplines to scientifically manage and manipulate the thinking and behavior of an irrational and “herdlike” public (from Wikipedia). In other words, people are stupid.
Even if you don’t assume a lot of people are stupid, as a marketing “guru” you rely on statistics to earn your paycheck. Even if 1% of a million people believe your sales pitch, you’ve convinced 10,000, and the pitch can utterly outrageous, but statistics doesn’t care. I heard a press relations representative at a trade show tell his fellow co-worker his favorite quote, “A sucker is born every minute.” I wouldn’t doubt if this was a personal motto of a lot of those in the marketing field.
Take spammers for instance. They know spam is unanimously hated by the world, and most people delete it without a mere thought, but 10,000 people out of a million will open it because they are either too old to know better (Save on your mortgage!), desperate (Increase your penis size!), or not used to the concept of spam yet (Holy cow, woman has sex with horse!). Keep spamming millions, and you earn massive profit, no matter how stupid the sales pitch is.
Anyone can go into marketing and be largely successful. Why are there college courses and degrees for it? It’s a braindead profession that requires skills that any human being can develop without education. Skills such as being deceitful, ignoring a guilty conscience, sleazy use of semantics to mislead, and a well-rounded grasp of the common language. Show me the top marketing guru in the country, and I’ll show you any hustler on the street peddling drugs who is as good, if not better.
These days, competition is fierce in a number of industries, and to survive, even well-meaning companies with solid products better than competitors still try to use seedy marketing tactics to stay at the top. When you have investors breathing down your company’s neck, the problem is exacerbated.
When a company has a product/service that a competitor does better, at a lower price-point, then the more aggressive the marketing tactics, and the more likely to border on unethical. Companies get away with it all the time, because once again they rely on statistics. People may catch on, Newsweek may bash the company, internet sites may point out the sleaze going on with a company, the reputation may suffer for a bit, but the vast majority of people won’t ever know or care.
In closing, I’ll acknowledge that not all those in the field of marketing and press relations are dishonest, conniving idiots. There are those who represent the best in the field, who are honest and passionate about their job. They usually belong to companies with good policies and know how to sell a good product/service, and doesn’t resort to aggressive marketing tactics when a competitor does better. Just like there are lawyers who are good people, willing to help, and some even do pro bono work. Unfortunately, I feel the good people are in a field where the bad ones are more successful and lucrative, thus they are more prevalent.