When Does Social Change Work Become a “Calling”?

My friend Kathleen Gage posted a quote from Albert Schweitzer about people sometimes reacting with hostility or obstruction to your attempts to improve the world. And then she said.

So if you are doing good for praise and accolades, you are doing it for the wrong reasons and it is no longer a good deed. It is an act of manipulation.
Do good because you are called to do good and for no other reason.

I’m going to gently disagree. I agree with the first two statements. But I disagree about “for no other reason.” I’m guessing that really what we have is different definitions of the concept of a calling—that mine is a lot stricter than hers. And that’s because, a few times in my life, I’ve experienced a genuine calling: a feeling that I was put into this place at this time to do something very specific—and that I had to do it.

We do good for lots of other reasons than because we are called to: to show your children what is possible. To make conditions better for others. To improve the lot of a group facing oppression that you don’t belong to–or that you do. To right an immediate wrong. Not all of these rise to the level of a calling. But all of them (and far too many more to list). I became an activist at age 12 and remain one. Five times, I have felt that calling—to:

1. Do what I could to stop the Vietnam war
2. Move the country away from a reliance on nuclear power (maybe the worst technology ever invented)
3. Protest publicly when the US bombed Libya (and I was the *only* protester on the first day, but by a few days later, there was a whole group of us out in front of the courthouse)

4. Save the mountain two miles from my house (with a massive outpouring of community support, won that one in just 13 months!)

View of the Mount Holyoke Range, showing the land saved by Save the Mountain in 2000.

View of the Mount Holyoke Range, showing the land saved by Save the Mountain in 2000.

5. My current mission of showing the business community how to turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance—not through guilt and shame, but through enlightened self-interest
Yet these are only the tiniest fraction of thousands of actions I’ve taken for social change. The rest were not a “calling” but simply the right thing to do. They were not done for self-aggrandizement. If that had been my goal, I would have taken far faster and easier paths (like the Internet millionaire meme). Some of them were tiny and easy, like signing a petition. Others consumed years of my life, like the time I spent building what we now think of as the LGBTQ movement or my involvement in changing the politics of the city I lived in for 17 years, and the small town where I’ve lived for the past 18. Most were somewhere between, like serving on committees for grassroots groups or local governments.
That said, I gleefully share that my current calling is the most exciting and meaningful work I’ve ever taken on.
When have you felt a calling? What was it for and what was the result?
Posted in Activism, Environment, People Helping People, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , ,

Did Obama Create Trump?

I read a comment by the author of a new book called President Obama Created Donald Trump, claiming that President Obama saw himself and the country as post-racial, and thus didn’t prepare for the consequences of “the catalyst for racial backlash and unrest” that led to Trump’s nomination.

The White House. Photo by Emilien Auneau

The White House. Photo by Emilien Auneau

Interesting theory. But it sounds to me like blame-the-victim. I’m too young to remember FDR, who I know was adamantly hated by conservatives—and who, despite that hostility, was elected four times. When the Republicans got power again in 1952, their standard-bearer was no radical demagogue. It was Eisenhower, a moderate who feared the oligarchy and was the first to call it “the military-industrial complex.”

Obama has borne the brunt of more hostility than any US president in my lifetime (much of it due to his color)—and handled it with remarkable grace. In this author’s view, he is somehow to blame for racism?

Here’s my contrasting view: When the Democratic Party and especially (Texan/Southerner) LBJ began to get serious about undoing racism, the Republicans, starting at least with Richard Nixon and his Southern Strategy (if not earlier) began courting and nurturing the most racist right-wing fanatics in the party. Richard Viguere and his ilk brought fundraising, marketing, and organizing prowess. Reagan came to the party with a new economic agenda geared toward the 1%. Bush II added megalomaniacal ignorance and disastrous foreign and economic policies, yielding two wars and the Great Recession–and a hankering for “change.”

Obama rode that wave but faced an intransigent Congress openly dedicated to sabotaging his efforts. Progressives perceive him (falsely) as not accomplishing much. Yet the Republicans see him as usurping power. Neither accusation has merit, but that’s the public perception.

So people are eager for change. We saw it in the remarkable primary successes of not only Trump but Bernie Sanders (who I supported and voted for, incidentally—and like Bernie, I’m voting for Clinton next month). People feel disenfranchised, powerless, and thoroughly disgusted with the Establishment. Hillary Clinton, destined perhaps to be an even more hated president than Obama or FDR, is the embodiment of that establishment, as is Jeb Bush–one of the first GOP candidates to drop out.

Trump stepped into the vacuum, with lowest-common-denominator messages of hate masked in “Make America great again” rhetoric. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of his statements closely parallel quotes from Hermann Goering:

Trump: “I love the poorly educated!”
Goering: “Education is dangerous—every educated person is a future enemy.”

Trump: “The security guys said, Mr. Trump, there may be some people in the back with tomatoes in the audience. If you see somebody with a bag of tomatoes, just knock the crap out of them, would you? I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”
Goering: “Shoot first and ask questions later, and don’t worry, no matter what happens, I will protect you.”

Trump: “By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But I tell you what, that will be a horrible day.”
Goering: “Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my Browning.”

While his psychopathologies and abusive behaviors (not just the groping, but the lying, cheating, physical intimidation, psychological intimidation, threats of violence, etc.) go beyond even the Republican Party of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, Trump’s thinking is a logical extension of his party’s reach for the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the barrel. He is the next iteration of a pattern that began in the GOP nearly 50 years ago. He is merely the next step the Republican Party has aimed toward for decades.


Posted in Demographics/Psychographics, Diversity, Ethics in Government, language, Marketing Trends/News, Politics, propaganda, Psychology Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Much Should You Spend on Marketing?

Someone asked a very odd question in a discussion group:

How a startup is viewed (by an investor) when its majority spending is on marketing/advertising?

Laney Rosenzweig StoryboardIn my answer, I chose to ignore the investor question (although I hint at it in my last sentence) and discuss it instead from an overall business point of view. Let me share that answer:

Having written several books on how to market effectively with little or no money, I definitely agree. While we don’t all have to be as extreme as Google, which built one of the most profitable companies in the world without spending anything on advertising, I think all of us should be focused heavily on more creative, more interactive marketing—including content, interactive involvement tools on your website, social media actual participation (not just advertising), live appearances, etc.—only using advertising and other paid strategies sparingly if at all. This is something I can help with, BTW. For a very affordable cost, I can create an entire marketing plan for you, rooted in these kinds of strategies as they make sense for your particular business/skill set/interests.

If someone is spending more on marketing than on operations, I’d worry about their long-term viability.
But I found the question quite odd. It’s hard to even wrap my brain around the idea of spending more on marketing than on innovation, product development, manufacturing, distribution, etc., combined. Yes, of course, we’re all in business to sell something, and marketing helps us do that. But we also have to have something worth selling.
Posted in Advertising, Business-general, General Commentary, Innovation, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies Tagged with: , ,

Why I’ve Boycotted My Neighborhood Theater Since 1969

If you don’t think customer service is part of marketing—and maybe the most important part—this post is must reading for you.

Old movie theater marquee. Photo by Marcus Buckner.

Old movie theater marquee. Photo by Marcus Buckner.

Great Service Builds a Business

Great customer service builds long-term customers, relationships, and ambassadors for your brand! Just ask Nordstrom. They surely don’t compete on price.

Ask Southwest Airlines, which made its original reputation on low prices but now is known for exemplary service in an industry that generally treats its customers like crap. Many times, I’ve actually paid a bit more to fly Southwest, because I know I can check bags for free and—more importantly—change my ticket if there’s an issue.

Southwest earned my loyalty by saving an expensive cruise vacation that was about to go up in smoke when our airport closed for a snowstorm and we weren’t going to make our connection to the cruise ship. Southwest cheerfully if perplexedly let us shift to the following day in a different city, so we could board at the ship’s first port-of-call.

These days, I go to the Southwest website first, and only check discount travel sites if I can’t get a good flight there. Have I told people they should fly Southwest? You betcha. I just told you and a few thousand others, in fact.

Crappy Service Kills a Brand

Yet no amount of (expensive) marketing will undo bad customer service. This is something I talk about in many of my books, including the most recent, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World.

I have boycotted a number of businesses that treated me shabbily—including the movie theater in the New York City neighborhood I grew up in that sold my 12-year-old self a full-price adult ticket and made me sit in the children’s section. I have not been back in the 47 years since—because I felt wronged and discriminated against.

But the worst was our local Toyota dealership. We had a long and extended bad interaction with them that culminated in a phone call, “you have 24 hours to get your car out of our lot—and by the way, the engine is in pieces in the trunk.”

Not only did I write a five-page complaint letter with full documentation to the VP of customer relations for Toyota USA (which gave a too-little-too-late form-letter make-good offer a full year later), not only did I never buy as much as a tube of touch-up paint from that dealer for the rest of their career and was not sorry when they closed—but the next time I went car shopping, I didn’t even seriously consider Toyota and bought a competing brand. That was the first time I bought a car not built or designed by Toyota since 1981; they threw away decades of strong brand loyalty. Over the 30 years or so that likely remained in my car-buying lifetime at that moment, they probably cost themselves well into the six figures.

And no amount of expensive advertising will counter the disconnect if you don’t walk your talk, even if it’s not a customer service issue. If you have a sign posted in your store noting that you’ve empowered your employees to solve customer issues, as the late Blockbuster Video did, that should actually be the policy. It wasn’t for Blockbuster, in my personal experience. And they’re gone.

And these days, a frustrated customer doesn’t just tell ten friends. I just read recently that Dave Carroll’s video, “United Breaks Guitars”—seen by nearly 17 million people—actually lowered the airline’s stock price. The video also garnered tons of mainstream media coverage (including CBS and CNN), many new fans for Carroll and his band, the Sons of Maxwell, and even a book contract (the book—big surprise—is called United Breaks Guitars. And think about all those “companysucks.com” websites out there damaging brands.

In Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World, I cite an auto-industry study that only 40 percent repurchase. So it’s up to you to turn satisfaction first into delighted amazement, and then into loyalty, and finally into ambassadorship for your brand?

Timothy Keiningham and Terry Varva, authors ofThe Customer Delight Principle: Exceeding Customers’ Expectations for Bottom-Line Success, point out that marketing’s primary role is to communicate “the wants, needs, and expectations of current and potential customers,” [emphasis mine] so the business can “create and distribute products or services that more closely address and answer these inherent needs.” If meeting the needs of current customers doesn’t encompass customer service, you’re in trouble.

Please share your customer service successes and disasters (either as a vendor or a s a customer) in the comments section, below.


Posted in Advertising, Branding, Customer Service as Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, Marketing Trends/News, Shel's Personal Life Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Orange-Hair’s Pivot

During last night’s debate, Donald Trump kept taking any accusation or criticism and attempting to  pivot it around to his opponent. He also interrupted constantly, shouted belligerently, told numerous documentable lies,* and bragged about his bad behavior. It was a performance worthy of an elementary school bully, not a candidate for President of the United States. It was ugly. And quite frankly, it got in the way of the few good points he honestly made about areas where Clinton should do better.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton face off. Screenshot from CBS News.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Clinton chose to be cool, calm, and collected, to smile patronizingly with an “isn’t this little boy adorable?” look over her shoulder—while quickly and scathingly rebutting him when she got the floor. It may not have been the perfect approach—but with the need to do a delicate dance of expectations, as a very public liberal woman in a culture that doesn’t like powerful liberal women in politics, it may have been her best option–even if it did seem a trifle over-rehearsed. Trump mostly glowered and scowled, looking for moments to interrupt.

But let’s not focus on style over substance. On policy specifics, Clinton noted her earlier accomplishments and referenced her specific proposals. Trump was hard to pin down, used empty adjectives like “beautiful” and “tremendous” (example: “I’m really calling for major jobs because the wealthy are going to create tremendous jobs.”). He resorted to ridiculous claims, defense of procedures that have been declared unconstitutional, and as already noted, flat-out falsehoods.

Perhaps most telling are the “accomplishments” he did brag about. Here’s his response when he was asked about his pattern of cheating people who’ve worked for him:

I take advantage of the laws of the nation because I am running the company. My obligation right now is to do well for myself, my family, my employees, for my companies.

Here’s what he said when Clinton speculated that the reason he doesn’t release his taxes is that he doesn’t pay any:

That makes me smart.

Near the end, Trump made this ballsy claim:

I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament.I know how to win. She does not know how to win. The AFL-CIO – the other day behind the blue screen, I don’t know who you’re talking to, Secretary Clinton, but you were totally out of control. I said, there is a person with a temperament that’s got a problem.

In Yiddish, the word for this is chutzpah. The closest English translation would be unmitigated gall. The man who has run his campaign on temper tantrums, slander, innuendo, inappropriate sexual references, and racist/sexist belittling of others, who could not even make it through a 90-minute debate without interrupting and shouting, claims that his temperament is his best asset.

Let’s take him at his word—and give a landslide vote in November that repudiates that temperament and doesn’t  expose us to the dangers of his other, presumably worse attributes.

* You can read an annotated, fact-checked transcript of the whole thing at http://www.npr.org/2016/09/26/495115346/fact-check-first-presidential-debate

Posted in Business Ethics, Ethics in Government, language, Marketing Trends/News, Politics, propaganda, Psychology Tagged with: , , ,

Social Entrepreneurship MUST Be Genuine

On a discussion list, a startup entrepreneur asked,

I have noticed that many successful startups are advertising that they donate x% of their profit to someone in need or they help someone have a better life,etc. What do you think is the importance of such messages to gain initial traction and how does it help grow the company?

By the time I saw the post, several other people had jumped in to tell him that social entrepreneurship isn’t just a marketing trick. It must be genuine.

Globe showing various crises around the world

How some people view the world—Opportunity for businesses that genuinely care

I agree, but there’s more. Here’s what I wrote:

Yes, social giving has to be genuine–motivated not by marketing but by sincerely helping the world–but if you’re doing that, you gain huge marketing advantage if you handle it right.

Keep in mind: charitable give-backs are NOT the only model. I’m rather a fan of creating products, services, and business cultures that directly *and profitably* turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance. In fact, in my latest book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World–which is focused on this aspect–charity givebacks account for part of one chapter out of 22 chapters. In my speaking and consulting, I help companies actually develop these kinds of approaches. You can get a very quick early-stage introduction by spending 15 minutes with my TEDx talk, “Impossible is a Dare” http://www.ted.com/tedx/events/11809 (click on “event videos”)–but recognize that this was 2 years ago and the work has evolved a lot since then.
All other things (such as price, quality, convenience) being comparable, consumers “vote with their feet” to support ethical, green, socially conscious companies. So you, as a startup, have the chance to look at the skills, interests, and wider goals within your company…create products and services that match these skills, interests, and goals with wider goals like the Big Four I mentioned at the beginning…and market them effectively to both green and nongreen markets (which has to be done differently, as I discuss in the book). But please, do it with good intentions! (I can help, BTW.)
Posted in Abundance and Prosperity, Branding, Business Ethics, Business-general, Corporate Social Responsibility, Diversity, Eco-friendly, Energy & Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, Environmenl, Green Business, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, poverty, Transparency vs. Secrecy Tagged with: , , , ,

Voting for the Lesser of Evils Three Times—THIS Time

Here in Massachusetts, we get to vote on some interesting referenda.

Lifting the Charter School Cap

UPDATE, OCTOBER 6, 2016: I’ve been convinced in the intervening weeks that this particular charter school vote is not one I can support. I am not convinced of the motives of this bill’s supporters, and I see a greater threat to the public schools in the way this measure is structured. Below is what I’d written on September 18, before I was really aware of the issues with how this referendum is structured. All my other points about the other issue and candidate remain accurate.

One is on lifting the current cap on charter schools. These schools are publicly funded and privately run, funded primarily by a state per-pupil allotment. They range from liberal experiments in educational democracy to corporate-sponsored throwbacks to long-abandoned educational models promoting rote learning and obedience. At the moment, 32,000 Massachusetts students are on waiting lists for charter schools.

Preschool girl with a creative project. Photo by Anissa Thompson.

Preschool girl with a creative project. Photo by Anissa Thompson.

It’s important to separate whether the charter school experiment is a good thing from the funding formula. Bias disclosure: both of my kids attended charter schools for elementary through high school, so I’m a quadruple alumni parent. It’s also worth pointing out that my wife and I both attended the same New York City high school for gifted children. This was a public school, but in many ways the experience was closer to an academic-achievement-oriented charter school in today’s world.

The switch came for us when the public school second grade teacher insisted on teaching reading by lowest common denominator. Our daughter, who had always loved school through preschool, kindergarten, and first grade, very quickly started hating it. She didn’t want to sit through whole-class reading lessons using a book with two words on each page, paced to the slowest kids in the class–and the school administration was not responsive. We moved her to Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School, an arts-based school that emphasizes love of learning through multiple modalities–and she thrived there.

We worried that my son, five years younger than my daughter, could have been a bullying victim in the traditional public school, as I was. He was a sensitive, feminine, non-sports-playing classical musician, avid reader, and a member of a tiny ethnic minority in our town. And our town’s school culture is heavily focused on sports. But he did well in the zero-bullying-allowed culture at Hilltown. Both of my kids went on to thrive in the performing arts charter high school they attended afterward (which was, incidentally, much more ethnically and racially diverse than our town public school). My son drew on that training to attend a major music conservatory for both his undergrad and graduate studies.

Hilltown also did its best to follow its mission and be a lab school for new educational methods, which it was eager to share with other area schools. However, the school’s outreach efforts were rebuffed over and over again. My wife was on the board for a while, and she told me how almost every outreach gesture was brushed away by the local traditional public schools.

I vote an enthusiastic yes for the idea of charter schools–but the funding formula borders on criminal IMHO. Removing resources from the traditional public schools just adds to the spiral of despair, increases bureaucracy, denies resources to kids who are in many cases already begging for more, and cuts off real learning.

Yet I will vote for more charter schools–because they were there for my kids when traditional public schools failed them–but reluctantly, because I think the funding formula strikes a blow against public schools with every student who leaves.  And whether or not the vote passes, I think we charter school supporters have to be part of fixing that rotten funding formula. And as a vote to give a few of those 32,000 waitlisted students the same opportunities my children enjoyed.

Recreational Marijuana

I will also vote, reluctantly, for pot legalization, though I don’t like the way the industry is moving. I see it becoming another outpost that extracts money from the poor, uses questionable marketing tactics, and encourages people to detach from reality rather than step up to the plate and work for change. It’s also likely to concentrate clout in the hands of a few big players, squeezing out any mom-and-pop businesses. And I worry about fostering a culture of chemical dependence, and of course I worry about problems when people drive while stoned.

However, we already have all of that, with alcohol. And pot is actually a much more socially benign form of blocking the real world than alcohol. Pot smokers don’t get aggressive or violent, and don’t drive nearly as dangerously, as drunks. And criminalizing this behavior causes deep and lasting damage. It:

  • Ruins the lives of people who are using a much milder drug than many legal ones
  • Diverts scarce law enforcement and criminal justice resources away from crimes that actually hurt people
  • Causes a tremendous financial burden to taxpayers (it’s not cheap to keep someone in jail for several years) and contributes to prison overcrowding
  • Builds the criminal infrastructure (alcohol prohibition was what really made the Mafia a force to be reckoned with)
  • Jacks up prices to levels that may lead to property crime

Once again, I’m voting for the lesser of evils. Criminalization is a failed solution.

The Presidential Race

And yes, dammit, I will vote reluctantly for a deeply flawed Democratic presidential candidate who in many other years might not get my vote, even though I live in a “safe” state where I could vote third-party, and have voted for independent candidates in the past.

I want such an overwhelming margin of defeat for Trump’s agenda of racism bullying, misogyny, lying, cheating his suppliers, suppression of the media, egomania, etc.  that he never shows his face in politics again. Let’s compare Clinton and Trump:

I could go on and on. If you want more, start with longtime political observer Adolph Reed’s article, Vote for the Lying Neoliberal Warmonger: It’s Important. And to those on the Left who say a Trump presidency would revitalize the opposition, I would respond that repression doesn’t often create a climate of change. For every success like the freedom struggles in South Africa and India, there are many more like Prague Spring being crushed by the Russians–where the hopes and reams of the people are squashed like bugs. We didn’t see a popular uprising during Reagan’s or even George W. Bush’s presidency; why would we suddenly see one under Trump and his suppression of the press?

In other words, I find myself facing the lesser-of-evils in three different votes on my November ballot. And while I can’t say I’m OK with it, I find voting for the lesser evil better than the non-action that triggers the greater evil. Better still: taking action to get voting reforms so we no longer need to vote lesser-evil.

Posted in Activism, Business Ethics, Democracy, Ethics in Government, Politics, Shel's Personal Life, Social and Economic Justice, Transparency vs. Secrecy Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Let’s Have Some Fun with a Stillborn Nuke: A Contest

The Washington Post reports that the never-finished, never-operated Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant, in Hollywood, Alabama is for sale at the bargain-basement price of $36.4 million. It has cost more than $5 billion to build as much of it as Tennessee Valley Authority managed to complete, so this isn’t just pennies on the dollar. Each penny of the purchase price leverages $137.36 of construction investment—which, if my math is right, works out to a pretty incredible 1,373,626.37 percent return on investment (ROI), if the plant could be amortized that way. Kind of like getting a Ferrari for the price of a Matchbox car (little toys about two inches long).

The unfinished Bellefonte nuke in Alabama is for sale. Let's have some fun figuring out what to do with it.

The unfinished Bellefonte nuke in Alabama is for sale. Let’s have some fun figuring out what to do with it.

Of course, the plant can’t be amortized that way. It was built to turn atoms into smaller atoms and electricity (and, by the way, tremendous waste heat and a whole soup of poisonous and radioactive waste). In all likelihood, the plant will never fulfill its intended purpose. And that’s a good thing!

So let’s think about what we could do with it instead. After all, it’s costing the small town of Westwood, MA more than $13 million just to build a police station, so this really is “the deal of the century.” And let’s have some fun.

I want your outlandish AND your practical ideas. Please submit one of each as a comment on this page, in this format: Outlandish: (describe your idea in one to three sentences). Practical: (describe your idea in one to three sentences). Also please tell me how you learned about the contest so I know whom to thank. If you wish, you may link to a page giving more details. Each entry must include both categories (and the link to your posting address or Facebook screen name must function, so I can contact you if you win).

Oh, and comments are moderated, so don’t even bother posting racist, sexist crap or unrelated commercial spam. It won’t get posted and it WILL get you reported and blacklisted.

All entries must be received by 11:59 PM Eastern Time, Thursday, October 20, a bit over a month from the day I post this.

Want to be a winner? Make your Outlandish entry very humorous but not offensive. And make your  Practical entry eco-friendly and specific. For instance, it’s not enough to say “a renewable energy project.” I want to know the type and why it’ll work there.

The winner in each category will get a 30-minute consultation with me to discuss any aspect of marketing, green/social entrepreneurship business profitability, book publishing, or green living–and a copy of my latest book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World (acclaimed by Jack Canfield, Seth Godin, and others) as well as my ebook, Painless Green: 111 Tips to Help the Environment, Lower Your Carbon Footprint, Cut Your Budget, and Improve Your Quality of Life—With No Negative Impact on Your Lifestyle. Total value of the prize is $135, which is as close as I can come to the amount of construction cost each penny covers. And you’ll be in a press release I’ll send out announcing the winners.

I am the judge, and I’m not responsible for lost or misdirected entries, I assume no liability, blah blah blah (standard contest disclaimers).

Posted in Branding, Energy & Sustainability, Frugality/Frugal Fun, Green Living/Green Lifestyles, Green Marketing, Innovation, Socially Responsible Investing, Technology, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , ,

Don’t Bait-And-Switch–Intentionally or Not

Last night, I signed a petition created by Rep. Joe Kennedy about gun control. The page gave me the option to share on Facebook, and I did. Then I went to bed.

I was pretty horrified to check my page this morning and see my share that said “Stand With Rep. Joe Kennedy” and had a huge picture of him. Not a word about gun control showed up in the Facebook preview.

So I took it down and posted this note:

To those who might have wondered why there was a huge campaign ad for Rep. Joe Kennedy on my page last night. I had just signed a petition he originated on gun control, and wanted to share it. I didn’t check how it posted on FB. I felt tricked and betrayed enough to take the entire post down. Let him get signatures some other way.

This was a classic bait-and-switch. In fairness, Kennedy probably delegated this to some social media intern and most likely wasn’t personally involved. But if I lived in his district, this would make me look for someone else to vote for, because I don’t like being manipulated and cheated.

Only after I took it down did I think about blogging about this feeling of betrayal. If I’d decided to blog before I instinctively took it down, I would have grabbed a screenshot to post here. Instead, you get the logo of the ultimate-bait-and-switcher: Volkswagen.

Aging Volkswagen showing VW logo. Photo by Daria Schulte.

Aging Volkswagen showing VW logo. Photo by Daria Schulte.

VW, of course, preyed upon environmentalist car owners to sell them a low-emission vehicle—but fudged the test results and was really selling highly polluting cars. This is costing the company billions, and it isn’t over yet. The state of Vermont just filed suit against VW two days ago. Vermont, tiny as it is, has the second-highest per-capita concentration of VWs in the country (after Oregon)—precisely because environmental consciousness is extremely high among its residents. In fact, a year ago, a group of those Vermont residents already filed a class-action suit against Volkswagen.

I used to think my parents and in-laws were overreacting with their continuing pledge never to buy Volkswagen s because of the company’s involvement with the Holocaust. After all, the people who made those brutal decisions are long dead or in nursing homes. But after this scandal, I can’t think of any reason why I would ever trust the company again.

Bottom line: in business and in politics, bait-and-switch has no place in ethical marketing.

Posted in Business Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, Energy & Sustainability, Environment, Ethics in Government, Greenwashing, Marketing Trends/News, Politics, Psychology, Transparency vs. Secrecy Tagged with: , , , ,

Advice to a Startup–Four Things I Wish I’d Known

Someone asked me today what advice I’d give to someone just starting out. If someone had given me these four bits of advice in 1981 when I was just starting out, I’d have been on the success track a lot faster.

  • Be green and ethical—and willing to proclaim this to the world
  • Delegate early, especially those things you’re not good at–but keep checks and balances in place
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. An off-the-shelf solution may be better and cheaper than reverse-engineering something
  • Recognize the REAL opportunities that provide first-mover advantage–and walk away from those that aren’t there yet
Posted in Business Ethics, Business-general, Corporate Social Responsibility, Eco-friendly, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Green Business, Green Marketing, People Helping People, Shel's Personal Life Tagged with: , , , ,

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