When South By Southwest was canceled in March, it got my attention and the attention of the world. For one thing, it had never happened before.
Now it’s three months later and the U.S. leads the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths (by a wide margin). Plenty of pundits point to inept leadership in D.C. as the cause. That’s as a given. What’s more interesting for marketers and policymakers alike is the underlying character of the American people and how it fuels the pandemic fire.
“Freedom” to many Americans means that they’re free to do and think what they want. The saying, “It’s a free country,” is a well-worn maxim for good reason.
Today, we are seeing lots of flagrant displays of this type of freedom exercised in public spaces. It’s not just the massive public protests from coast-to-coast that present a problem, it’s crowded bars, beaches, parks, and swimming pools that are also jammed with unmasked and seemingly unconcerned people.
Austin entered Stage 4 today with more than 20 daily hospitalizations over a seven day average. Barking Springs June 14, 2020. pic.twitter.com/POC2zR4nHe
— Scott Cobb (@scottcobb) June 14, 2020
At first, widespread masklessness was a form of virtue signaling. Now, it’s just common.
The Events Biz Is About to Boomerang (Or Is It?)
A sizable portion of the American population isn’t up for making this summer the Summer of Enclosure and Extended Isolation.
How this plays out remains to be seen, but there are reasons to be alarmed. Nevertheless, the show must go on. Or so some say. CNBC reports:
In Texas, the Sunbelt Builders Show is going on as planned for next month at the Gaylord Texan, just outside Dallas. Despite the state’s recent record spike in coronavirus hospitalizations, organizers said in an email to CNBC, they are encouraged by the registration numbers and attendance is trending similar to last year’s 2,300-person event.
It is a critical moment for a massive industry and the economy. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research estimates conferences, which drive business for hotels, airlines and local restaurants contributed more than $101 billion to U.S. gross domestic product last year.
Since March through the end of the year, 64% of conferences have been canceled.
How do you feel about gathering in a crowd, right now or in the near future? Are you going to attend a conference this year or next year? How about a sporting event or a concert?
Golf Fans, Among Others, Are Back in the Swing
This weekend, professional golf made its televised return at Colonial Country Club, but with no fans or club members allowed on the course. As a workaround, a wealthy group of Dallas-Fort Worth area PGA fans had a private party from makeshift stands.
And there was not a masked face in the entire group.
Impulse Control…It’s for the Other Guy
The need to be outside and to find some sort of new normal is intense. The human impulse to be near others (mask or no mask) is also happening in the face of this breaking news: As of Saturday, coronavirus cases were climbing in 22 states amid reopenings. Arizona, Texas, and Florida are reporting their highest case numbers yet.
Defiance is part of the American character and when it is combined with willful ignorance it becomes a flaw that costs the country dearly. Why does this insight into the American psyche matter to people who work in marketing? Simply put, if marketers are not inquisitive about human nature, they’re not marketers, they’re vacant loudmouths.
A loudmouth blares his offers at you. A marketer, on the other hand, works to understand the people in the audience. That’s the first and most important step in any marketing plan because there’s no persuasion to follow without it.
Find Compassion, Cultivate An Audience
I want to ask a serious question. Do you, or can you, approach your work as a marketer with compassion for all?
Part of the audience for a given product or service today is afraid to leave home. Another part of the audience doesn’t want to be scolded, shamed, instructed, or judged by a brand or by anyone, ever. Mass marketers today need to appeal to people who live on different planets, culturally speaking.
It’s another spoke in the complexity wheel and another reason why marketing is a profession for grown-ups. To me, a mature professional in Marcom does not seek shiny objects of any sort. Instead, she seeks to understand people—better than they understand themselves, at times—and then respond accordingly with an array of nuanced and highly specific messages and interactions.
In Related News, We Are Ruled By Our Passions
In his Treatise of Human Nature, the Scottish philosopher David Hume argued that: “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.” By “passions,” Hume meant what we now call emotions. What gave him such faith in the passions that he could accept reason’s enslavement to them? Hume understood reason to be incapable of producing any action, and the passions to be the source of our motivations. So he insisted that we must attend to the passions if we want to understand how anything gets done.
In other words, if you believe Hume, we have the power of logic but we are not ruled by it.
I dare you to bring Hume’s thinking into your next client meeting. Clients love logic when spending money because it seems safe. But it’s not safe. Appealing to a person’s deepest wants and desires is a much better, and safer, idea.