I wrote earlier this week in support of integrity in advertising. We marketers like to put our “best foot forward”, but the wildly exaggerated claims made by the infomercial czars have left us consumers jaded and mistrustful. Let’s face it; much of the advertising we see today is either hype or obnoxious, intrusive trash. To look at the broad spectrum of media advertising, one might conclude that cleverness is in very short supply. Of the myriad of radio ads, print ads and TV commercials I’ve been forcibly subjected to over the years, only a handful are remembered with fondness. Who of us does not remember with a smile: “I am stuck on Band-Aid brand, ‘cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me” or “…Oscar Mayer has a way with b-o-l-o-g-n-a”?
These gems prove that there are ways to endear your product to your customers without meaningless exaggeration or shameless self-aggrandizing. Now, while I happen to be in the business of marketing this attraction, among other duties, we are all in the business of marketing ourselves in one way or another. Whether you’re in the market for a job or for a spouse, for a promotion or for a bank loan, you’re in the unofficial, undeclared, but ever-so-real business of self-promotion. So we can all take a lesson from the way products are marketed to avoid the same mistakes when promoting ourselves.
I was delighted to be introduced, via the internet, to a marketing maverick named Scott Ginsberg by our own Corporate Marketing Director Amanda Pittsley. He’s made a name for himself in advertising circles by insinuating himself into the public consciousness with cleverness and freshness rather than with exaggeration.
I began reading his material, and I was quite impressed that his success recipe includes the old-fashioned, tried-and-true ingredients of hard work and discipline stirred up with a couple tablespoons of passion and a soupcon of “I’m-brave-enough-to-be-true-to-myself” spontaneity. His recent post on the importance of discipline was especially helpful to me personally. I’d like to think that I am quite disciplined in several areas of my life, but I’ve gotten sloppy in some places. His post was a helpful reminder that I need to reinstitute this great virtue into some weak areas, a virtue that should be cultivated by every person, and especially by us New Englanders who have been historically associated with this great virtue as evinced by the expression “Yankee tenacity”. Indeed, each season I am approached by some dear visitor unfamiliar with New England who’ll insert foot in mouth and ask: “How do you get the maple syrup out of the granite?” Invariably, my reply: “Yankee tenacity.” For if discipline is the ox, tenacity is surely the yoke.
Mr. Ginsberg, also known as the nametag guy, has written a new book, -ABLE: 35 Strategies for Increasing the Probability of Success in Business and in Life, which I have yet to read. But his teaser for it reads as follows: “The purpose of this book is to sell you on my theory of the universe. Which is: The only thing in life you have control over is yourself. And that you can’t make anything happen—but you can (greatly) increase the probability of that thing happening…by making yourself more “-able”.”
While not in my opinion a complete epistemology from which to navigate the whole of life’s seas, this core truth is nonetheless profoundly valuable. You can’t control other people; you often cannot control your circumstances, but you most assuredly can control yourself and your reactions to others and to your circumstances. And by concentrating on making yourself more “able”, i.e., being concerned as much about the other guy or gal as you are about yourself by providing value to others, you greatly increase your own chances of success and happiness.
Mr. Ginsberg’s challenge to his readers, via his blog, was to develop other “-able” words (he provided quite a list of them) to get our own minds thinking about developing our own abilities in such a fashion as to increase our value to others and thereby increase our chances of success.
Several words came to mental fruition. The first is “color-able”, which I’ll define as the ability, due to your own self-discipline and concern for others, to add color, joy, brightness and passion to other people’s lives. The word came to mind because the primary business of this corporation is the fabrication of outstanding monuments, mausoleums and statuary that serve as memorials and testaments to those loved ones who have passed on. We care enough to honor those who have thoughtfully and lovingly impacted our lives. We innately associate color with youth and vibrancy, as in “the bloom of youth” and associate dullness and the lack of color with illness or death, as in the “pallor of disease” or the “pallor of death.” I challenge each of us to become more “color-able”, more vibrant, bright and infectious in the way we treat and interact with fellow humans to bring to them a better quality of life by our mere presence.
We absolutely do have control over our own reactions by the meaning we place on each event and circumstance. Without intending to sound trite or simplistic, we can choose to make the best of our personal circumstances and can choose to thrive and bloom just where we are planted, determined through discipline to persevere and to add value to others’ lives while waiting for the “soil” of our own circumstances to improve. The color-able person tills the “soil of circumstance” to improve her/his lot in life; and while so doing, improves the lives of others.
Laziness walks the path of least resistance, becoming jaded, disgruntled and even downright unpleasant. The color-able person employs discipline to hike the higher terrain, to live above circumstances while effecting the process to change them. The color-able person adds freshness, vibrancy and enthusiasm to the atmosphere around her/him. And in so doing, conquers those circumstances and elevates those people in her/his presence.
The principle applies equally well to those of us who are marketers by trade. By avoiding risible hype and outlandish exaggeration, by adding cleverness, freshness, vitality and passion to the way we perform our duties and sell our products, we make ourselves more Color-able, more IPod-able, more E-sale-able, more E-count-able (the guy or gal whose influence really counts), more E-ubiquit-able (I prefer my word to “Viral”, which makes being successful sound like a disease) and more Propagat-able (the guy or gal whose work is most worthy of being used over and over again).
So whether you are marketing a product or marketing yourself, let’s all challenge ourselves to be more “color-able”, to add life, vibrancy and vitality to everyone we know and every place we go. Let’s challenge each other to promote ourselves on a higher level.