I’ve been reading another great Seth Godin book–Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Seth has some powerful ideas about the changing nature of work and what will command value (and what won’t) for pretty much everyone in the near future. A core idea in the book is that value is be created by artists, not clock-punchers. An artist is not just someone with a paintbrush, it’s someone who does what he does out of love, not just a paycheck. The result is exceptional…exceptional ad copy, teaching, bricklaying, whatever. Art is almost never captured in a job description, because it involves things that can’t be categorized, systematized or legislated. Because art, in the form of exceptional work, is scarce, it tends to command higher prices and sincere admiration.
If this all sounds too warm and fuzzy, think about what you find at the other end of the spectrum from art. Cookie-cutter. Mass-market. One size fits all. Lowest common denominator. Cheap crap that brings no lasting joy. Mind-numbing work. Bureaucrats. Rule Nazis. Fundamentalist zealots. People clinging to the status quo. I could go on, but you get the idea.
So, what about art in marketing? A lot of the buzz around things like content marketing is the idea that it is useful, informative, and has a human, authentic voice. Most advertising is perceived as self-serving, deceptive and not useful. Don’t even get me started on the vast majority of PR-generated content. I think all the great advertising is created by the kind of artists Godin wants us all to become. All those copywriters who just phone it in aren’t doing themselves or their clients any favors.