On philosophy, basilisks and branding.

Compare and contrast… this comment to my site:

I’m getting a little exasperated with all of the philosophical blogging about brands, missions, visions, etc.

Let us never forget that the game of business is a transactional one. Meaning that if your company’s purpose is anything other than providing what people want in order to get them to exchange their time, attention and ultimately money for it, you’re misguided, at best.

Now . . . if you want to take that money and reinvest part of it in improving people’s lives and the world at large, I’m one of your fans. But please stay focused on the desires of the markeplace, or you’ll have no money, and hence no ability to make a difference in anyone’s life . . . except perhaps your own and your children’s.

Stay passionate . . . and focused!!!

with this posting:

“”Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.”

I’m often reluctant to use the word “love” in the same breath as commerce. But in this case, Saint-Exupery’s insight is perfect for today’s sales and marketing professionals. Your job is no longer to sell stuff and close deals by watching intently for subtle shifts in your clients’ behavior. Rather, it’s to open up new worlds and new possibilities to them.

Forget your agenda! Give up your need to control! And start looking together towards the horizon . . . towards a creative and mutually rewarding, long-term relationship.”

You might think these two writers might not get on. Yet they are both Tom Asacker. The first is Tom in exasperated mode (to see what I’m like in exasperated mode, look at my Dr Rant category)

When I first read Tom’s comment it came as a bit of shock to me. To be honest I felt a bit hurt until I realised I sometimes feel the same way. Some of the philosophising about brands exasperates me. There is so much pretentious claptrap about my “relationship” with the “values” of a Mars Bar.

But what (I hope) I’m philosophising about is “can’t we do better than this”?

One option is Exasperated Tom’s Transactional Game of Business, with its Basilisk Focus on the meat at hand. I think the Transactional Game is an understandable response to the waffle and dishonesty of marketing. Confronted with half truths, we give up on relationship and demand only to have our immediate needs gratified. Cut the crap British Telecom and cut my phone bill, don’t make me sign up for your pseudo-loyalty programme.

Then there is Philosophical Tom’s desire for mutually rewarding relationship. That’s what I’d like more of. Treat me with respect, as an end not a means, and I’ll be collaborative. These are the working relationships I put my energy into. That’s what I feel most humans are after, even those that present Basilisk mode.

And these trusting relationships start with… a transaction. Ultimately, the transactional game can be part of the relationship game.

Angry blogging. Scary but thought provoking. Discuss.

4 thoughts on “On philosophy, basilisks and branding.

  1. Tim

    Interesting thread.

    You know, I only really want a relationship with those things that money can’t buy. Like my partner, my family, my body, nature and my God.

    A relationship with a product? Forget it. I want a stereo that sounds fantastic. Clothes that people admire. A haircut that suits, a car that looks and drives great.

    Tom’s angry, realistic post feels right. His ‘love’ post I can identify with.

    Reminds me of Mahan Khalsa’s thesis: selling is helping clients succeed.

    Yep, a train needs both rails to run on.

  2. Johnnie Moore

    Thanks for your comment, Tim. Glad you dropped in!

    Some organisations talk about relationships in a very idealised way and if they’re talking about my relationship with a vacuum cleaner it starts to get a bit bizarre.

    I suppose it depends how you like to use the word relationship. For some, it suggests a serious emotional connection – I think that’s the sense in which you use it.

    I also use the word in more diluted sense: I’d say I do have other relationships… These aren’t ones of affection or loyalty and they aren’t all voluntary. By calling these relationships, I simply acknowledge that some people’s/organisations behaviours have an impact on me, whether I like it or not… so we are related.

    I do have a relationship with Islington Council. On the whole it’s one of irritation, but it’s still a relationship.

    The reason I don’t think that highly of the council can be traced to a few specific transactions – the high cost of my council tax, and several hotly disputed parking tickets.

    But Islington Council impacts on my life in many more ways than these. It matters to me that they treat their staff well and get the human stuff right. I don’t judge them solely on the basis of how they treat me.

    Or take Pret a Manger, a UK sandwich chain. I love their product but I also like their attitude, that they treat their staff with kindness and that the people working there seem cheerful. It bothers me a little that they use lots of plastic bags. I don’t evaluate them solely on the basis of what their food does for me. I evaluate the product of course, but that evaluation is affected by the wider context.

    I wonder if you’d still buy the great clothes if, for instance, you found out they were made by child labour in bad conditions?

    Most of us are weary of the pretensions of organisations, but I think their values/philosophy do have an impact. If the practice of branding helps them to pay attention to the reality of these things, good. If it attempts to distract us with wishful thinking, not so good. I don’t think the product is everything.

    My two cents worth!

  3. Jennifer Rice

    I agree with your comment, “can’t we do better than this?” This is definitely where I’m coming from when I philosophize. We all sense & understand the shift from the command/control business mindset to a more interactive/holistic one, but we haven’t quite put our finger on how to concisely communicate it to corporate decisionmakers (the MBAs and CEOs) in a way that they’ll embrace. Perhaps it won’t fully happen until a new generation moves into those slots.

  4. Tim

    Great feedback. And I certainly agree: we can always go an additional step with regards to our relationships with others. Simply ask a Buddhist.

    I’m just tired of reading about it, as if it were something new and intellectually stimulating.

    For example, Jennifer’s most recent post makes reference to Prahalad and Ramaswamy’s book, The Future of Competition, which contends that companies should try to cocreate value with customers. It points out that everyone you come in contact with at a client’s business is a customer (potential customer).

    What’s so revolutionary about that line of thinking? Years ago G.E. engineers were skilled at looking at opportunities to help manufacturers reduce costs, improve quality and safety, etc. all of which were designed to make the customer more competitive. And I’m not even talking about accomplishing it through the design of the end product (which, by the way, is a skill and competitive advantage in itself).

    I’m talking about things like: watching how the customer receives the product and designing packaging to minimize handling; elimination of P.O.’s and electronic exchange of data; recommending and bringing in other experts to imrpve processes, design, etc.

    David Levy once stated: “When I hear someone curse, that’s a sign to invent something.” The marketplace is ripe for cocreation of value with customers. The problem is not lack of insight; it’s lack of desire and lack of balls!



    You’re right. My interpetation of a relationship was more intimate than the ones you describe and I see what you mean. But on the child labour? I’ll be politically incorrect because, ahem…I don’t have a problem with that.

    But I know that some people do. And I never thought about the plastic bags at Pret! I’ll re-use the same one over and over again at the supermarket and refuse to accept a bag in other stores. But Pret…

    Perhaps It’s because I think they do enough already.

    Fascinating area. The comments show we’re all different.

    I even think command and control is good sometimes.


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