Prevailing PC in Marketing: Who’s Willing to be the Lone Rooster that Crows Before the Break of Dawn?
About political correctness, small business, marketing and a better humankind
Growing up in Europe, I must admit that I wasn’t very familiar with the term ‘political correctness’ (PC). Somehow, we just became numb to such things; the diversity of a relatively small continent with nearly 50 countries and more than 20 languages (plus hundreds of local and regional dialects), where after centuries of wars and animosity, we finally found a way to live together and become more accepting of one another and our differences. We joined our free spirits from the south…warm, spicy, and hot-blooded people, who hug and kiss and share their food unselfishly with new acquaintances over a glass of wine, where topless beaches are viewed not as ‘girls gone wild’ but as a normal alternative option that is not a big deal, whether you choose it or not…and the north…where brownies are made with love and another ‘special’ ingredient, where some adult shops do have windows and merchandise displayed to the public. Now that you have an idea regarding what I’m talking about, imagine some of us foreigners coming to a place where being PC is a must…a way of business and everyday life.
I wouldn’t even have written about this topic had I not observed a couple of bothersome PC / non-PC situations in recent professional matters. As business owners, our biggest dream is to attract as many prospects as possible and to convert them into customers, that is, into profit. Right? For a small business, this process of evolving from “have you heard about the new neighborhood business” to “OMG, they were part of the 4th of July parade” to “they donated money for making a new basketball court in an underprivileged part of town” to “they have environmentally friendly uniforms” to “I will shop there regularly because I like who they are, what they stand for, and how they do business” is challenging; I’ve found that we’ve become over-sensitive and that, for every politically correct action, someone is likely to find a politically incorrect perspective.
However, it is generally very simple. A business owner wants to send the world a positive message about his or her business; a message that will motivate interest and ensure favorable standing; a message that will not leave a stain on the business, business name, or brand; a message that the business is not prejudiced and is open for everyone; a message that everyone’s money is more than welcome. Or maybe not that simple???
The Holiday Season
The time right around the holidays is always key for political correctness. Yes, you know that time of sending out greeting cards to your current and prospective clients and vendors. When I was first exposed to this, I just didn’t understand the drama about colors! “No, we can’t use red. No, not green, that’s also a Christmas color. No, not blue, that’s only for Hanukkah.” I still remember one of my former employers forcing that one big snowflake on the card. That seemed safe. A few years later, with a different employer, I remember the same color issue around the end of the year; we ended up using purple and avoiding any potential PC issues.
Should I even mention Happy Christ-Hanu-Wanza being replaced by ‘Season’s Greetings’ (of course)? I guess that humans just want to complicate things. We are afraid of simple, because simple has to mean losing something. Could we proclaim one color as the official holiday season color and just simply use it during the season? Aren’t you sometimes tired of being PC from late November through early January; people seem to lose sight of what’s important, that someone has thought of them and wished them a greeting of joy, luck, and happiness? Isn’t that actually what’s most important?
Pictures and Illustrations
I mean, the picture (e.g., advertisement, brochure) has to have a Caucasian, an African American, a Hispanic/Latino, an Asian, a homosexual, a female and a male representative, right? Else, someone will feel forgotten. Overseen? Unimportant? Untargeted? I mean, seriously. I am ok if a female is not represented in the commercial of a product that I’m considering. I don’t care if they use a Martian as a spokesperson for McDonald’s, I will still indulge in eating junk food…sometimes. Why do people find themselves called out or forgotten so easily and so often nowadays? Why is the sensitivity level so high and self-awareness so low that it has to be proven all the time?
So, what advice can I give to a small business owner concerning this whole PC / non-PC debacle? I guess that shifting attention to Valentine’s Day and welcoming Spring seem like good ‘neutral’ ideas and safe ground. You don’t want to get on the bad side of the community that you work in; you don’t want to be the rooster that crows before time and gets his head guillotined…to set an example for the other roosters. Or, to lose your customers because you wished them a happy ‘wrong’ holiday – you can’t afford that financially. But! PC was brought about by people in a moment when society felt the need for it. Many people feel that it’s time to overcome this forced ‘respect’ and censoring of free speech. Many business owners would act more freely if PC weren’t directly or indirectly enforced. The fact is that marketers continue to point out that PC kills good marketing and restricts creativity. However, PC continues to remain in our society. Yet, who wants to be the lone rooster that crows before the break of dawn?
This is one of those ideologies that begs for a relatively mature society, which has already overcome trivial issues; unfortunately, at this time, it seems possible only if we as humankind are threatened by aliens, or robots, or who knows what else; only then will be united and not feel threatened or disrespected by one another. Until our society grows to the level of self awareness and mutual self-respect that doesn’t need to be ‘regulated’ by PC guidelines, we can all try to make small improvements by talking about what bothers us, trying to explain ourselves, accepting and respecting one another.
Or we can keep making commercials like this. No one insulted, right?
P.S. Kudos for creativity! The ‘pipe’ people really reinforce the message of the product while not being politically incorrect.