Sunday, September 06, 2009

Dictatorship of opinions

Any marketer faces daily the same question over and over: “What is your opinion on X?” My unscientific observational research over the last months leads me to the conclusion that everyone has always an opinion on everything. I rarely experience the moment of silence when the asked marketer pauses for a few seconds and says quietly but confident: “I don’t know, I don’t have an opinion.” I call this phenomenon of constant and never ending opinions “The dictatorship of opinion.”

It has all the symptoms of a dictatorship:

  • There is a clear behavioral norm. When asked for your opinion, you better have one, independent if you have any knowledge, insight, or anything meaningful to utter.
  • There are clear sanctions for refusing to follow the norm: Marketers who don’t have a lot of opinions will be slowly excluded from any meaningful discourse, any important discussion or any executive position. The definition of an executive marketer includes the capability of expressing endless opinions with a emotional mood continuum from presidential to passionate. Most important is the sole utterance of opinions, the quality of the expressed opinion is secondary.
  • Expressing opinions is a self feeding mechanism: Every expressed opinion as part of a marketing discussion will generate up to 10 additional opinions. It is less relevant if these uttered opinions bare any connection to the first mentioned opinion, it is all about feeding the monster that can get reignited with the simple question: “And you, what is your opinion?”

Sometimes we test the abilities of very talkative children to hold silence for five, ten, or fifteen minutes, just to demonstrate that silence can be a refreshing and meaningful space between human beings. What would I give for a group of marketers that would try not to express an opinion for a few hours? Yes, it could be a torturous experience for any marketer, me included.


Anonymous Scott Johnson said...

I have no opinion on this post.

5:24 PM  
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