Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

A Culture of Wide Black and White Lines

The world of advertising and marketing has one purpose. The aim is to get us to act or to react emotionally.

Their aim is not to get us to think.

At least not at first.

The marketers and advertisers learned a long time ago that the human brain makes emotional decisions. It’s how we’re wired. There’s a kid who needs food or a puppy who needs rescuing. There’s a product I need. Renee’ and I are thinking about getting a Subaru someday, not because we think Subarus are objectively better cars. We are thinking about a Subaru because they use dogs in their commercials.

That’s not rational.

But we don’t tend to be all that rational when it comes to our decision making.

Social media does not help rational thought. Social media in general, Facebook in particular, has hijacked our brains. It’s taken all the underhanded and unscrupulous principles of the advertising world and condensed them into a news feed. We live in a tinderbox of dry, black and white opinions and white-hot emotional fuel. The dampening effect of rational thought is rare and difficult to find.

Complicated issues like immigration, foreign policy, abortion, systemic racism, sexuality, and healthcare have become reduced to memes and GIFs that we’re either for or against. It’s either right or wrong. There's no space for middle ground or thoughtful dialogue because we’ve painted our black and white lines in such large, wide strokes that common space is nonexistent.

Our world is run by the marketers - the people who have the skills to persuade us to act. From politics to religion to the nightly news, we have a culture of action. A culture that jumps to conclusions. A culture that responds to the latest trends and is outraged by a tweet. A culture that buys cars because of a dog and has made immigration an issue we are either “for” or “against.”

We’re a culture of wide black and white lines. Our side and their side. Winners and losers. No place for middle ground.

And we can’t talk to each other about it.

Marketing is good and important. There is a time and a place to act.

But our marketer culture also needs scholars. We need thinkers, philosophers, and storytellers. People who seek to understand rather than simply persuade, and who help the rest of us to do the same.

Persuasion without understanding leaves us in a vacuum with nothing but a dead culture and a whole lot of yelling.