Is Marketing Work Making Us Stupid?

I would like to do something a little different on this lovely
Friday. Instead of presenting an argument or commenting on a piece of
news, I would like to throw out a question to you. (Yes, you!) I need
your help, so dip your figurative quills in the ink well and read on.

Here’s something you probably don’t know about me: I have a terrible
memory. That’s what people tell me anyway. I forget birthday and I was
never good at remembering phone numbers (ah, the days before cell

I’m the type of person who walks into a store and, when they come
out, can’t figure out which direction they came from. (Malls were
especially difficult as I recall.) It’s not because I’m stupid – it’s
because I’m analyzing the advertisement they posted in the window, the
customer service of the employees, and whether the discount rate of the
sale was more or less than was offered online.

And then I noticed a passage in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink
(page 186 for those of you following along at home). Gladwell describes
giving a group of his Manhattan friends the Pepsi challenge – figure
out which drink is Coke and which is Pepsi while blindfolded. And yet
none of his urban friends, pinkies presumably high in the air, could
tell the difference. “They may drink a lot of cola, but they don’t ever
really think about colas.”

But marketers must think deeply about these experiences. In whatever
field you work, do you have an extraordinary sensitivity? Do you have a
Spidey-sense about messaging?

And this leads back to my original problem with memory. I’m working
on the theory that marketers focus so much on both the big-picture
issues (think branding) and small details (think bounce rate) that they
may lose some of the information in the middle. Is this the case for
you? Or is this just a bunch of baloney?

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