Why Cheaters and Scoundrels Never Win (in the Long Run) — And W​hat Data Has To Do With It

I will take as a shining example the Parthenon in Greece, which, after nearly 3,000 years, still survives as an enduring symbol of Hellenistic culture and democracy.

Why has it endured for so long? One reason is there is compelling evidence that it is laid out according to the design of the “sacred cut.” In other words, it is built on the Golden Ratio, also known as Phi, which turns out to be approximately 1.618.

What’s fascinating about this proportion is that it aligns closely with the relationship between any two successive numbers in the Fibonacci Series. Why should we care? Because the Fibonacci Series describes the most elegant patterns in the natural world, such as trees, shells, flowers, and other organic symmetries.

While we as marketers create ephemeral objects, it is the merger of beauty and timelessness reflected in the natural world that can still inspire us and speaks to our deeper natures. That may explain why many artists and designers keep a pine cone or nautilus shell by their desk, where the elegance of nature is in plain evidence.

There is, of course, another golden principle, i.e. The Golden Rule — which essentially states that one should treat others as one would like to be treated. Here the relationship that is being observed is not angles or physical space, but between people. Like the Parthenon, ideas and organizations that accept this rule as a tenet generally endure longer, and fare better, than those that don’t. And if following this rule does not guarantee success, at least the principals can sleep better at night.

Unfortunately, however, and especially of late, the illegal and unethical practices of one U.K. company have tainted other businesses who are engaged in the legitimate use of data for marketing purposes.

There is nothing inherently wrong with psychographic or other kinds of data profiling. Where it becomes a problem — like virtually every tool in the universe, from butter knives to nuclear fusion — is how the tool is employed, and the intent of those who use it. Does it help, harm, or is it simply neutral?

And, when we ask ourselves the critical question — how might we feel if the same means or apparatus were used on us? — are we absolutely sure it’s okay? Is there any doubt that we might be doing something ethically or morally wrong?  If so, we have an obligation to stop.

Lately, many of us in our industry are wrestling with these questions. That, we believe, is a good thing. We all should be mindful of these issues. And while we’re at it, let’s also accept there are some things far greater than data that the right data can contribute to. Here I am referring to empathy and understanding. That, in our view, is the greatest value data can bring to advertisers, and what ultimately should be brought to any marketing initiative.

To finally arrive at a place where you see the customer as yourself requires a willingness to accept certain truths. This is an examination one cannot cheat their way around. While we all have our differences, there are basic patterns that clearly stand out — and these patterns are as beautiful, as functional, and as timeless as the Parthenon when you begin to see their outlines. It is far more intelligent to respect these differences rather than presume they can be manipulated.

At Minds+Motives, and all the companies with whom we choose to partner, this is how we live and work and the only way we know to prosper.

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