I just got a phone call on my biz line, which I answered with great initial enthusiasm. It was “Kathy” or “Kaitlin” asking to speak with the “Lady of the House”. I informed here that there wasn’t one, so she asked to speak to someone else in charge of the household. At this point I asked, “Who are you?”, and she replied she was with The Dove Foundation and could she please speak with the lady of the house? I then asked with what she wanted, and she got a tad bit huffy and insisted she needed to speak with the lady of the house. I said, “Look, YOU are calling ME on my business line, and…” but didn’t get farther; she spoke over me, saying “I’m sorry, thank you for your time” and hung up before I finished. I actually can’t remember if she did apologize, because the tone of the voice conveyed the opposite intention, which was I’ve got other calls to make, you’re wasting my time >CLICK<
I started preparing an informational rant against The Dove Foundation, but along the way I had an insight about a new marketing strategy that could work for me. It’s not as awful as you might think.
The Dove Foundation is an organization that promotes the production of “high quality, wholesome entertainment options for their families”. It’s a rating on top of existing industry ratings like the MPAA for movies and ESRB for games. I flipped through the listings on the website for games, but the number of reviews was rather short; it’s rather telling that the first game at the top of the list is “The Bible Game”. I was hoping for something more like Consumer Reports, a comprehensive rating system for all the current games, but apparently not. From their one-page public annual report, their 2005 revenues were $430K, and their major cited accomplishments were conducting opinion polls, publishing studies, conducting film festivals, and writing movie reviews.
If you do a search on google for “Dove Foundation”, you get a lot of angry posts about their terrible telemarketing manner. The earliest post I saw was dated 1998, so they’ve been irritating people for years with their put-up or hang-up style of “outreach”. So common is this irritation that they include it in their FAQ; the gist is “we don’t intend to hang up on people, maybe our operator pressed a button by accident.” I feel so loved. My opinion is that they’re just focused on the prize: collecting data that supports their agenda. And they don’t care who they irritate in the process, because if you’re irritated you must not be in their demographic.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with having an agenda; I just like it to be out in the open. In the marketplace of ideals, I like healthy competition through factual expression, not cooking the stats. I realize that’s a blurry line to draw, but it comes into sharp focus when I see lying with partial-truths. Everyone knows this is the best way to lie. Marketing copywriters of a certain type know this, hoping that we can’t smell the rat. Guys and gals…you’re not fooling anyone. By coincidence, the SXSW06 podcast for Cluetrain: Seven Years Later was released today. It was one of my favorite panels at the festival, featuring Doc Searls, Heather Armstrong, Henry Copeland, and Brian Clark (Christopher Locke didn’t make it). Very much worth listening too; it’s all about conversation in the marketplace.
Honest conversations. Yeah.
I don’t mean to bust on marketing copywriters…just look what they have to work with! When you’ve got to feed mouths, turd polishing is a job you gotta do. But I was thinking: companies historically are artificial persons formed for some commercial enterprise. Extending the “person” idea, the language that copywriters are forced to use is all about saving face. Some companies are painfully aware of their drawbacks, and they’ve gotta hide it. And if you’re trying to sell a stinker of a product with words and pictures, what recourse do you have? Even if the product is merely average, you’re kind of sunk.
Freelancers face the same problem. Although I have freelanced since 1998, it’s only now that I’m starting to see how some of my pieces fit together. Before that, I had the same skillset as everyone else: Flash. Director. Photoshop. Graphic Design. At least, these were the skills that people could recognize…I have always liked writing and analyzing things, but people don’t like buying intangibles like that; they like stuff they can see or otherwise experience. So you’re kind of doomed to compete on generic term matching (“I’m looking for a Flash guy”) to get the work, wait for referrals, or hussle to get your name out there. I’ve been pretty bad at doing the hussle, subsisting largely on referrals. I’ve been inspired lately by watching My Life on the D-List and seeing how an utterly-shameless person (Kathy Griffin) gets things done, at the same time dealing with self-doubt, setbacks, and stress. I’m working my way up to that.
There isn’t much difference between what I want to do and what The Dove Foundation is doing. I’m a little more selfish about it: my cause is me and the people who are important in my life who I have yet to meet. The Dove Foundation wants “wholesome family values” in the media. Maybe what’s different is the approach I prefer to take.
Naturally, I want to portray myself in a positive light so I can have a successful life just like everyone else; that’s my agenda. Two approaches come to mind:
- Show Only My Best Side — In other words, list the good things that I’ve done, and trust that this makes up for everything else. It’s not being dishonest, unless you’re trying to cover up something. It’s like the supermarket putting all the good pork chops on top of a “variety pack” of meat, obscuring the skanky cuts beneath them. Or even having a selective portfolio in the first place.
Demonstrate All My Best Qualities — This is the approach I think I’m taking, having decided this just now. There are things that I do well that embody important personal principles and values. I want to work with people that have the same values. Therefore, I must demonstrate my values through action and by example. So if there’s something that’s important to me, like Information Graphics and having a Meaningful existence, then I must live it out. Make stuff. Talk about it. Be real. Make it easy for people to see that I’m on their side. That’s how my portfolio needs to be designed.
p>I suspect that approach #2 makes much less money in the short term (certainly, I am a datapoint supporting this theory :-) but I’m hopeful it has the longest legs. Approach #1 is about saving face, worrying about how you stack up against the competition. That’s a game that works too, and it makes the world go round. Nothing wrong with that; it’s just when the game is dirty that I have issues: lying through statistics, misleading people with half-truths, taking away other people’s choices for your own sense of emotional security and convenience.
For me, recognizing that “living and demonstrating my principles” can work as a marketing strategy formalizes what I’ve been doing for the past year or so. I was into the niche of one thing, but in the abstract. Now that I’ve recognized this principles thing, I can identify specific ones. This just may be the next step to finding the answer, fulfillment, or something good.