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Are there any indignant marketing professionals?
If I am not mistaken, marketing professionals are also human beings, are they not? Hence, it seems logical to assume that they, too, have emotions and social needs. How does one survive then, when one is required to navigate the challenges of highly competitive markets, with a mandate for Performance and Growth? On the one hand, as a marketing professional, you have a job with objectives to achieve, and on the other hand, you are a person with critical needs.
Marketing professionals, as with their industry, run the risk of disappearing; information technology is taking « your place », being even more efficient than you in collecting customer data. The focus has shifted; we are seeking more to answer the needs of the company, than its customers’, the customers having been transformed into objects of resources. A client is not a customer anymore; he is rather a compulsive consumer of disposal goods, thanks to the planned obsolescence of products.
As for globalization, the global regulators of social and economic spheres, like the European Council (E.C), seem worried, without being willing or able to move forward. Last October, the European Social Charter (ESC) was celebrating its 50th birthday, with very little attention in the media. The Charter, originally from the E.C, is starting to be cumbersome, since « the current crisis forces the question of whether to continue to honor this text, as well asto what degree... The economic crisis can become a social disaster if we allow the 1961 Charter to melt down », notes one of its leaders. Another interesting fact is that the highly-respected European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which provides recommendations on themes of European interest, publishes only one recommendation, out of 10, on a social issue.
As for the current crisis, salaried employees also pick up the pieces. Results from a recent Australian survey show that certain job positions are worse for your mental well-being than being unemployed!
The last European survey on employment conditions highlights the fact that 28 % of European employees declare their health is negatively affected by stress issues in the workplace; this being the most reported health issue in the workplace, next to back ache.
A management magazine reports that more than 70 % of managers admit to being stressed because of their job. Facing increasing levels of stress, 46 % feel discouraged and 30 % envision leaving their position.
Even though, unfortunately, some business and marketing leaders continue to perceive the consumer as an object to be manipulated, others are realizing that they are being manipulated themselves. The bottom line is that they become vulnerable for the benefit of the company.
Vulnerability has become an economic threat
Not so long ago, the workplace was a place for professional growth and development. In the fifties, the framework was not always simple, or even easy, but it was rare to find employees who were not proud of their boss; viewed as the author of progress for the whole family. Without becoming nostalgic, the firm as a family provider for several generations promoted social bonding and integration through the workplace.
The sixties shook the establishment and the ready-made formula, whether in the moral, religious, educational, or political arenas. Economic players wanted more and claimed more liberties. They did not want any more totalitarian policies, but they wanted more freedom in economics. The liberal economy was born, and became a thriving market. In the following decades, industrial competition put production into a globalized setting which, to ensure profitability, created the obsolescence of products to produce more, resulting in increasing profits. The national frontier was not enough anymore, globalization was launched.
This globalization, begun in the nineties, opened the door to a new capitalist player. It is no longer economic, but financial, dominating States, as well as the real economy. The results are a kind of capitalism made of speculation, where the IMF, the Central Bank and the WTO are the major decision-makers, rather than the community nations themselves.
To top it all off, the Internet erases distance and shortens time: everything is accelerated. The worthy ideal of person-to-person communication has been exchanged for expediency. Communication has taken on a tyrannical aspect: the urgency of the action and information serves the required performance, not only from the top executive, as before, but also the shareholders, and then mostly, the financial stakeholders.
Today, rather than determining the true value of the market to the community, the tendency is toward the fear of being vulnerable. Shareholders are afraid of losing their investments and their dividends. Indeed, this pressure is passed down to the company, having become an object of resources, and of course to the employee, whether an executive or not. The employee, once the pride of the company, threatens to prove its undoing. If he or she does not perform optimally, they become the cause for the company’s deficit. This kind of vulnerability is not permitted: it is an economic threat.
Being an object of resources
At the beginning of our life, everything was beautiful; we rested peacefully in our mother’s arms. But we have never really been weaned from our beginning, since we have had to learn, work, consume and finance growth prematurely. Not ours, of course, but the free market economy’s, because there is no time to get our own answers on the Who - When - How - Why? No time to know how to be. Only answers to questions we have not raised are available. Ready-made answers from the financial prophets, the market economy and the science economy. Knowing-how is more important than knowing-be since it generates questions and management problems. So!?... It is better to be an efficient marketing professional than a person who has emotions and a heart.
And this is how we have become the objects of resources in an economic system that we do not understand very well anymore: it is straining us, stressing us, making us sick, fearful and isolated. But, since most people are like this, we assume, it must be normal, and, therefore, abnormal to face challenges.
Most of the population of a country agrees with this deshumanizing paradigm: we owe to ourselves to « finance growth », economic growth, rather than of human life. You do not need to grow emotionally, spiritually, relationally, or to seek a bit of light and warmth, but you owe it to yourself to exceed sales quotas and make the GDP increase.
A totalitarian economy
This is how the current and main driving force of nations and of their societies (citizens and organizations) has come to be the best performance possible, the achievement of objectives and the enrichment without too much effort, whatever the means or pressure on employees look like. The citizen (as a consumer or as an employee) becomes an object of resources, so that the head of the organization sees his own profit increase. It is not a fair kind of wealth, rather a totalitarian approach. If we think we have seen totalitarian States and regimes, we now live in totalitarian economies.
Performance rewards the strongest, who gets to be a predator of his kind. The Homo-consumpto-darwinian man is born. The speed of action and information serves performance and obscures the humanitarian vision essential for leaders, whoever they are.
So, why should there be a problem, if it works! Well almost... except we start to concern our Mother-economy and our Father-finance, because of our growing irrational crisis. And even if today, we easily acknowledge that « money does not buy happiness », thousands of people are still not happy. Curious way of life...
Most of my observations of human behaviors, as well as most sociological studies and surveys on consumption trends made these last few years, show a growing expectation and search for another framework for society, another paradigm. We are in a crisis for meaning and acknowledgement. We are trying to finish what we started at the beginning of our life. Our current society has forged a mindset for success antithetical to what is natural and to what nature itself teaches us: real strength is found in vulnerability and giving.
The marketing of giving and the marketing of one’s due?
One of our major mechanisms today is to establish a contract, when an exchange is underway. In exchange of a service, you have a revenue, or in exchange of a job, you get a wage. This contract implicitly reveals there is someone who dominates (who demands) and another who is dominated (who owes). If you do not respect the « contract », you are eliminated.
There is a more powerful principle: reciprocal giving. It creates a covenant where each one sets oneself in a position of vulnerability, that is, humility. This setting does not mean weakest versus strongest, but a respectful commitment toward the other, in order to build with him/her. Giving implies trust, letting go of one’s own security (power), to live in truth. It opens to the possibility of making mistakes.
- If for example, you would like to have a flower in your garden, you will give your seed to the earth (letting it go), and, if you respect it, it will give back to you in return. You depend on it, you are in a situation of vulnerability. There is no weak, no strong, there is a complicit dependence.
- Another example that I often like to tell: one of my peasant friends one day tells me, « Potatoes will soon give ». « And why? » I asked him. And his answer : « because I gave all my seeds and my best effort!... Normally, it should give me back 9 times more. » What a beautiful lesson of economics! His gift will yield a nine-fold return.
- A fruit-tree, if it is healthy, was designed to give and to produce. Its health does not depend on what it is, nor what it says, nor what it knows, but on its roots, which will draw energy from the soil, as well as from exposure to the sun. Its fruit is the result of all this. It is the same for us and for any organized community: giving the opportunity to others to flourish, without the sole focus of performance.
Hence, if an entrepreneur positions him/herself as vulnerable, they will give their trust to their employee, as well as their time. They will encourage the growth of talents without manipulation; they will allow for mistakes or failure, while investing their time. The fruit will soon come: employees will give back unreservedly.
On the contrary, not accepting one’s mistake or weaknesses, leads to losing trust, which creates mistrust and distrust on both sides. I have often noticed that a man believes himself to be strong when he is successful, while he is appreciated by women, when he weeps and admits his weaknesses.
Positioning oneself as vulnerable is the preparation to receive another’s gift. The opposite is a rape.
How to get rid of handicap?
Human history shows us that handicap frightens us and everything is done to get rid of it, especially in economics. Handicap is a weakness that makes growth vulnerable! The financial, economic and debt crisis put the Euro, Europe and the world in a situation of fragility and vulnerability. How fortunate are the States! They have the opportunity to find a way to turn from their pride and to listen to the hearts of the Indignants.
When vulnerability is accepted, it makes us richer and gives us the fragrance of humanity. The « weak » are a bit like salt: they bring flavor to a dish they did not make.
Handicap only exists because we have created norms, mostly based on performance: you know or you do not; you grow or you do not; you walk or you do not; you are strong or you are weak; you are successful or not. Who is « not », according to the conventional norm, is relegated to tasks, functions or places « outside of ». He/she will be given the social status we call « disabled »: this creates what we call exclusion.
A handicap is an opportunity to surpass oneself and to win; starting... small. Being disabled is a training trial for the one who sees, or wants to see, it. Do you know that our famous remote control was created by a physically disabled person? I myself have a major handicap: it has helped me to function better in my life, as well to develop my vision... for marketing.
Performance and economic, political or social stability will come, to the extent that self-giving takes its rightful place in relationships and in transactions. These are mostly due to the four fundamental triggers of the « consumer »: physiological, emotional, spiritual and social. For having practised and implemented this idea in all my missions, I can confirm to you that when these triggers are addressed, they generate a beautiful economy.
In life, as in marketing, vulnerability is gain, for the one who knows how to use it. Our economy and our markets suffer from a lack of human kindness.
A utopia? Of course! It is by utopia that we change paradigms. And marketing needs it so much.