Marketing is a first-world issue. Let’s change that.

The plethora of my college experience was in marketing and communications. Just a few years ago, I was in love with strategizing and developing campaigns to drive markets, meet consumer demand and ultimately, make more sales and impact the economy.

Now, I despise it.

Our world has become one of extraordinary misinformation. Superficial needs raise above those of fact. It is a first world issue.

You may disagree. However, as I analyze what I grew up with and what I desire now, the two do not align.

In rural northwest Ohio, I did not grow up with much. I did not need to. Growing up, my family was content on our little row crop and livestock farm. My mom, dad, sister and I stuck to our agricultural roots and spent a majority of our time in the great outdoors, working during the day (or after school was out) and coming back inside for dinner together in the evenings. At some point during my youth, that all changed. I cannot pinpoint the exact year, societal pressures or cultural shift. However, the shift has accelerated tremendously to now.

It is saddening to see how much disconnect stands between families, friends, communities and the world. You might disagree. You might think social media has made us more “social” and more “connected” than ever. I beg to differ.

Caroline's Cues | Perspective in marketing

The quote “perception is reality” is the unfortunate view of today’s world. For example, the above photo I captured while in New Zealand in 2013. Fun farm fact (on Friday), there are more total sheep in New Zealand than people!

Is the sheep helpless or being helped? 

Caroline's Cues | Sheep Shearing in Agrondome, NZ
Sheep is propped on her haunches in preparation for shearing. 

Caroline's Cues | Sheep Shearing in Agrondome, NZ
The farmer began by shearing her belly, and proceeded to shear the rest of her
wool to be cleaned and made into clothing goods.

Caroline's Cues | Sheep Shearing in Agrondome, NZ
This shearing not only lifted some weight off the sheep’s body, but allows
her to grow new, healthy hair — just like when we get hair cuts!

If you did not have these additional photos of the sheep, would you have been inclined to think she was helpless?

I had not seen sheep sheared before going on my study abroad trip and taking an animal husbandry course at Ohio State. I was oblivious to it. Just like me, growing up on a farm and not knowing everything about all facets of ag, you, your neighbors, your relatives and anyone else you talk to is certainly not well versed in every topic. This leaves a window of opportunity for marketing to take advantage of the unknown and make education more about selling.

Fear mongering and negative marketing is all too common today. We see this across industries including government, health and food. Why?

I think it’s easier to market.

Political campaigns are easier to pinpoint what someone did wrong and the bad publicity before they rave about what good a candidate did for its constituents. Let’s blame the pharmaceutical companies for an unknown illness that could have transmitted from a vaccination or procedure. Let’s label all the GMOs and “gluten-free” products because those two terms are dirty.

As average income per capita rises, so do our wants and desires for “things” and “luxuries”. We are extremely selective. We pride ourselves in having that right. However, I am concerned it is going too far, thanks to misinformation and lack of concern to learn.

I am in a few different social teams online. One Facebook group I’m in revolves around healthy eating and lifestyle practices. Yesterday, a member posted a photo about some new oatmeal she purchased to eat at breakfast. Awesome, right? Yes, until my concern grew.

She asked if the brand was OK to cook with and because it was gluten free, that it was healthy. I scrolled the comment thread to see general comments about cooking instructions. No one had shared yet that oats are already gluten free. As an agvocate, I took the opportunity to contribute to the conversation. See below.

Caroline's Cues | Gluten free discussion on Facebook

I shared this link from the FDA guidelines on gluten free foods. Even after sharing, you can see that people were still skeptical and only trust the label.

Why is the label so magical? Any food that is naturally gluten free can be labeled that way. That’s why you see other products in grocery stores with the worlds “gluten free” in bold, even if there is no way they would be in it.

Where is the trust for our food manufacturers that they will proceed other foods safely for us to eat?

Buzz words and fear are ruling our lives. We have longer life spans than ever before. We [as humans] are capitalizing on that… eating, drinking, being merry and being dramatic along the way.

What does the future hold for marketing to this world of opinionated, concerned people for our wellbeing? Science and emotions go head to head in battle… right now, emotions win by majority. This has evolved as we humans have evolved. It is a first-world problem. And it will continue to be a first-world issue if we do not take action now to stop it.

I’m not sure what is next, but I know I don’t want to hate marketing. I want to make it positive again for all industries. What little actions can we take together to stop being so self centered, take time to build relationships and actually talk with people to learn and feel confident in our technology and advancements today?

I challenge you to take one issue you are not as educated on and spend one hour researching it. Just like I had to take some time to learn about sheep shearing and gluten, take a moment to explore what people around you know or could know thanks to your guidance and leadership.

It’s time to make first-world opportunities.