The late comedian Bill Hicks had a hilarious routine about marketing. You can still see it on YouTube. But before you go there, you should know, he’s going to tell you to kill yourself. And then he’s going to rephrase that message in some of the most offensive, unsafe-for-work language you’ll ever hear. (You were warned.)
Hicks isn’t the only funny man to draw the old evil marketing caricature. Dilbert did a whole run of comics on the soulless marketing department—apparently marketing isn’t a real skill, just liquor and guesswork.
It’s not like these artists haven’t made buying decisions based on marketing. They all must have brands they prefer, offers they’ve jumped on … In other words, at some point marketing has helped satisfy their needs. So why the pop-culture hostility?
All of these jabs have one message in common: They’re offended by the stereotypical insincere marketer, and they don’t trust you. From Bill Hicks to Dilbert to XKCD, it’s the same joke: Marketers will say anything, make you feel anything, because they’re just selling something … Which is, I suppose, true—except none of us wants our marketing to be a lie!
The very successful brands are the ones that convince people they are sincere. Whether it’s JetBlue making customers love the service or REI showing its staff lives the mountaineering lifestyle. Sincerity defines the brand and gets under that “you’re only trying to sell me something” callous.
Believe in what you sell and bring that belief to the marketing plan, because sincerity is only going to get more important to the connected customer. If you’re not trying to tell them a truth, then you’re only trying to sell them something.