|Phil, you are voicing what I think are some common misconceptions about marketing. You write:|
You go with the title that is the most descriptive and fundamental, not the one that has the most immediate appeal to large numbers of people. The people will come around if you convince the intellectuals, the writers, the thinkers.But this presupposes that intellectuals, writers and thinkers will even notice your message. For Rand's ideas, the most descriptive title would be a long, definitive one...the kind that would never be remembered five seconds after it was read or heard. Philosophically, the most fundamental title would probably involve the primacy of existence premise. How would you possibly work that premise into the title of a philosophy? And why bother?
If you use a long, forgettable description for your title, or employ some abstract neologism to which you have attached a special private meaning that nobody understands except you, how does that help you "convince the intellectuals, the writers, the thinkers"? Convince--of what? Doesn't that instead lead them either to ignore you, or forget you, or misunderstand you?
Stop exclusively thinking in terms of short term marketing and think in terms of centuries. Always go with the deepest and most fundamental thing. Objectivism is a weighty and profound name, once it sinks in. It alerts you to the fact that there is something that demands your respect, something non-superficial going on here. Rand deliberately chose the less known but more accurate term. You have to climb a hill to reach it. It will take longer to have an impact, but the impact and "the sale" will last this timeEverything here is absolutely mistaken, based on false alternatives. You talk about "Objectivism" being "weighty and profound" -- when my point was that nobody knows what the hell the word means as used by us, and thus most people grossly misinterpret it when we use it. You say that it will be weighty and profound "...once it sinks in" -- when my point is that it doesn't, because it is an abstract neologism. You say that it "demands your respect" -- when my point is that it can't, because it is widely misunderstood, and then ignored or forgotten. You admit that in choosing it as a label, we are deliberately adding to our communication challenges by giving ourselves "a hill" to climb, and causing our philosophy to "take longer to have an impact" -- when my point is that we can be more effective, and sooner, without sacrificing a single principle.
Your words imply a tacit moral concern common among many Objectivists who dismiss "marketing." They think it is solely the concern of the "second hander" like a Keating; a truly independent individual, a Roark, wouldn't care one whit for how his message might be perceived.
But "independence" vs. "effective marketing" is a false alternative. If one truly didn't care about being properly understood, then why bother saying anything? Why try to spread ideas at all? Or why not speak in one's own private code of grunts and noises, rather than in language understood by others?
Is the effort to be properly understood a failure of independence? I don't buy this for a second. "Second-hand" concerns, or "social metaphysics," refers to changing the substance of one's views to conform with those of others. It does not mean making one's independent views intelligible, accessible, noticeable and memorable. If Ayn Rand had no concern with spreading her ideas and being properly understood, she wouldn't have written for publication -- and certainly not in the colorful, memorable, entertaining way that she did.
Marketing principles don't tell you "change or hide your views." They tell you only to pay attention to how your views are being perceived by your target audience, so that you can overcome problems of invisibility and misunderstanding.
In fact, good marketing requires you to be more contentious, more blunt and distinctive, less concerned with blending in and blandly resembling your competitors. Good marketing requires you to stand out and be different. (That's the core lesson of marketing gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout, authors of Marketing Warfare and Positioning.)
Now let's back up for a moment and clarify the rationale for employing sound marketing principles.
The basic problem of philosophical communication is that you aren't airing your message in a vacuum. You aren't the only voice in the philosophical wilderness. You are trying to get traction for your message within a vast competitive marketplace of ideas, where thousands of individuals, groups, advertisers, media outlets and intellectual competitors are all vying for the attention of your target audience. And amid all of these distracting voices who are competing for his attention, your target audience has other interests, too -- and only limited time to pay attention to your message.
So what determines who gets seen and heard and remembered -- and who does not? How can you cut through the sound and fury with your own message, so that it is noticed and sticks in the mind of your target audience?
The answer lies in those principles of marketing that you too lightly dismiss. Who succeeds and who fails in a marketplace is not determined solely by the quality of the product: if so, we'd all be using Macs rather than PCs, and Mozilla Firefox rather than Internet Explorer, etc. Effective marketing means advancing your product competitively. It means skillfully "positioning" your idea or product against others, contrasting and distinguishing it so that people notice it, grasp its unique status...and remember it.
There is nothing "short term" about thinking competitively. Those who fail to do so won't be around for the long term: ask the once high-and-mighty IBM and Sears, who were toppled by upstart companies like Dell and Wal-Mart which understood far better how to market themselves. The most brilliant, content-laden message or product in the world will have zero impact and no longevity if nobody even notices it. Marketing principles (and they are principles) help you refine your message, the language you use and the arenas you choose to compete in, so that your idea or product penetrates through all the noise and clamor of the marketplace of ideas, to reach and stick in the minds of your target audience.
Consider the metaphor of a bridge. There exists a chasm between you and your audience, a gap of understanding that you need to cross with your message. If you are concerned solely with announcing your case into the ether, it's like building half a bridge -- projecting a span into space from your vantage point, but never bothering to finish grounding the span on the other side, where your audience waits.
In choosing a name for a philosophy or organization, I'd pick a short, distinctive and memorable name over a "fundamental," comprehensively precise one any day of the week. That's because the name is just a shorthand tag for the ideas or the group. It is not a condensation of everything you believe; it is only a way of linking to and sticking in the mind of your target audience.
Objectivism is too important...and deserves better than cultural invisibility. Once Objectivists start getting past the nonsensical notion that there's something inherently "wrong" or "unworthy" about paying attention to valid marketing principles, perhaps the world will start to pay attention to them.