Artemy Lebedev

§ 96. A grand marketing folly

December 2, 2002

An urge to follow the proven path spawns personality- and reason-deficient monsters. Discovering a new brave world takes audacity and a flair for experiment. Huge firms largely hire marketing staff with an inbred fear of using their brains. Today’s marketing is a thought-killing machine.

The Big Soviet Encyclopaedia defines marketing as “one of management systems of a capitalist enterprise, which entails a meticulous analysis of market processes in order to make economic decisions”. In practice, though, it will suffice to look into a marketing specialist’s professional duties to find that the responsibility for creative activities is part of economic decision-making. If anything, creative solutions lie in a realm where you will have hard time pigeonholing things, since the free play of creative thought is not subject to certification. As things stand these days, being a marketing man will be enough to preach to a designer that “black is gloomy” or “red causes hypertension”, or some other hooey stemming from journalists’ shallow discoveries and popular shibboleths.

A marketing man (just as any other specialists churned out in large numbers) is geared for life as if he were a protozoan: he is assigned with a unicellular function. The latter normally implies that he needs to stick to the narrowest range of knowledge and rules to survive.

Housekeeping tip

Protozoan—informal term for the unicellular heterotrophs of the kingdom Protista. Protozoans comprise a large, diverse assortment of microscopic or near-microscopic organisms that live as single cells or in simple colonies and that show no differentiation into tissues. Formerly classified in the animal kingdom, they are now generally divided into five protist phyla: Mastigophora (the flagellates), Sarcodina (the amebas), Ciliophora (the ciliates), Opalinida, and Sporozoa. Most are motile, and most ingest food, as do animals, rather than produce it themselves, as do plants. The 26,000 living species are cosmopolitan in distribution; they are found in freshwater and at all depths in the ocean; some live in soil. Some are parasites in the bodies of humans or other animals, sometimes causing diseases. The various forms have in common a unicellular structure consisting of a mass of cytoplasm with one or more nuclei. Like all cells, they are bounded by a thin cell membrane; in addition, most have a tough outer membrane called a pellicle, which maintains their form. Despite their small size and lack of organization into multicellular systems, protozoans carry on all the metabolic functions of animals. Organelles, or intracellular structures, carry out a variety of functions, such as digestion, excretion, respiration, and coordination of movement; some protozoans are much more complex in their internal structure than are the cells of multicellular animals. Some protozoans have complex digestive systems and feed on large food particles, such as other microorganisms. The food is digested by means of enzymes and the wastes transported to the cell surface or stored in vacuoles (bubblelike spaces in the cytoplasm). Others have no digestive system and absorb dissolved organic matter through the cell membrane. Respiration is accomplished by the diffusion of dissolved gases through the cell membrane. Oxygen diffuses into the cell, where it oxidizes food molecules, producing energy and the organic molecules used for the building and maintenance of the cell. Carbon dioxide and water, the waste products of this oxidation, diffuse out of the cell. Reproduction is usually asexual, occurring mostly by cell division, or binary fission; some forms reproduce asexually by budding or by the formation of spores (reproductive cells that give rise to a new organism without fertilization). In certain groups sexual reproduction sometimes also occurs. In these instances, cell division is preceded by the fusion of two individuals or, in ciliates, by conjugation and exchange of nuclear material.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Today’s marketing specialist lives on insurance. His primary task is shifting the responsibility for decision-making, say, to the results of focus group researches. Or implementing some pseudoscientific Joel-Kentiggen method allowing for deriving a coefficient of a spike in jewelry brand loyalty as a result of a top model picking her diamonded ear with a toothpick.

A concept sent in from the front office is a marketing specialist’s blessing. Then, with the indult granted, he doesn’t have to do anything. And this is the point where the grand marketing folly—GMF—takes place.

A superb example of GMF is Intel’s advertisement in Russia that was published in all major printed media and aired on television. In the US, the “Yes.” campaign was launched. In order not to let representative offices stray from the general guideline, a mock-up was sent from the West, and a blue circle with the word Yes designed to incarnate microprocessor super technologies was not to be altered. However, the word Yes is not Russian, and the current Russian alphabet doesn’t have the characters Y and S. To solve this imbroglio, an asterisk was added to the composition. A careful reader scrutinizing the advert in a magazine or a newspaper would see on the margin lots of small print elucidating the registered status of the Intel Corporation’s trademarks with the “*Да” footnote at the end of it.

In America:

In Russia:

It was the translation of the word “Yes” for some of the reading public who actually needed the translation. However, what we are seeing this time around is not just a corporate folly. The star overthrows all values of the graphic image and undermines the very ideological foundation of the campaign. Bold font was especially selected to underpin the certainty of the statement, while the full point at the end was meant to leave no doubts about the unflinching commitment to the things said. Semantically, the reference character beside the word “yes” makes it “may be” or “yes, but”. Let alone the fact that it builds a colon—a character that means there’s more to be said, which is not the case in the original version (yes, and no buts).

The majority of marketing specialists must have forgotten that the term “marketing” stems from the word market. Remembering that is unnecessary provided you’ve got a couple of highbrow phrases to cover up any doings. Any marketing (or advertising) manual provides a lengthy account of the scientific approach, but on the last page you’ll find a small print saying that in fact some brain and a bit of luck underlie the ultimate success. That’s a loophole that permits you to discard all rules and formulas.

No one knows how to earn a million or make popular ketchup. But everyone who’s done it knows that it happened not in a scientific way: it was all about luck and the use of brain.

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