#TBT: Arrogance, Self-Delusion and Other Fine Qualities

Happy #TBT. To celebrate, we’re sharing an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim: Arrogance, Self-Delusion and Other Fine Qualities.

If you’re responsible for marketing live entertainment (or anything really), I want to give you some advice that this recent election has brought back to the forefront of your mind [This post was originally published on November 3, 2010].


People are taking action in the marketplace, and it is for a reason. These reasons can be complicated, mixed and unclear, but if you listen, there’s usually something in there.

But having been around for a while, there’s something that bugs me to death about what happens after every election. The winner says, “The people totally agree with us and have permanently decided to support us,” and the loser says, “We didn’t get our message out successfully.”

Now as a person who thinks politics is basically the World’s Least Interesting Reality Show, I don’t want to talk about any political specifics, but I will say this: If you’re in power and you get swept out of power, it’s not that you didn’t get your message out. It’s that people didn’t like what you were doing. Funny how in 2006, the losing side said exactly what the losing side is saying now and vice versa, even though they’ve switched places. The lack of institutional self-awareness these politicians display at those moments is startling and considering the stakes, slightly frightening.

The remedy is simply this: listen. Be open to the possibility that your assumptions about the marketplace are wrong. I’m not even saying change to match the marketplace. I’m just saying listen so at least you know what’s true. The alternative is self-delusion.

And what do you think is the result of self-delusion? Eventual defeat in the marketplace. Just sit back and watch a political party go from aggressive upstarts with their ear to the ground to being the arrogant, installed power. It happens so quickly.

But it’s not just politics. It’s marketers. How little success do you think it takes for so many organizations to get arrogant?

Well, there are a lot of organizations that are pretty small potatoes that are pretty darn arrogant. As the leader of a small(ish) organization, I actively defend against it personally and on behalf of Goldstar. For some reason, it seems to be human nature.

And why does it happen? Because the organization is not listening. They like how it feels to assume they’re always right and can therefore assume they’re better human beings than others. They’re assuming that one success is a universal and eternal justification for every half-assed impulse they’ll ever have.

Maybe that’s what the marketplace was saying when you had that one successful show a few years ago.

But probably not. And if it’s hurting anyone to believe a lie about your own organization and its products, well, that person is you.

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