The Pride Test

by F.

As I was harvesting memes this morning, picking up the fresh growth from the night before, I came upon a post by Seth Godin about the morality of marketing. First, Godin states what we know: marketing is effective. It changes behavior. Subliminal marketing doesn’t—it’s a hoax—but regular marketing does. Given that,

the marketer at Malboro needs to acknowledge that by being a good marketer, she’s putting her kids through college at the same time she’s killing thousands of people. It’s a choice–her choice.

We’re responsible for what we sell and how we sell it. We’re responsible for the effects (and the side effects) of our actions.

It is our decision. Whatever the decision is, you need to own it. If you can’t look that decision in the mirror, market something else.

The whole post is worth reading. And rereading. Can you look in the mirror in the morning and say to the image there, “I’m proud of making X?”

When I can’t say that anymore about what I’m doing, I have to move on. I can’t help it. I’m fucked-up that way. I tend to think we’re too pampered in the “developed world:” we behave as if we were compelled to do some of the things we do—“If I don’t sell cigarettes, little Timmy won’t be able to go to Brown!”

Imagination and “the pride test” are a couple good tools to test what you’re doing, as far as I can see. Imagine that what you want to do comes to fruition. Think hard. Imagine the whole scene—the good and the bad and the neutral. Debias your imagination: remember that the focalizing bias will make you think about only part of the scene. Think hard. Fill it out.

Then assess. Are you proud in that counterfactual world? Be honest—there’s no one to fool but yourself. Look in the mirror (it’s harder for people to lie when looking in the mirror, according to some studies) and tell that image what you are doing. What’s your reaction to that person talking to you? Do you like them? Or not?

If you’re not proud, change course. There’s no alternative.