“Let not the wise man boast about his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches . . .” – Jeremiah 9:23
Once upon a time my colleagues and I, all of us responsible for business units within our company, were summoned to New York for a meeting with the boss. During the meeting the boss went around the conference table asking each of us to describe our best marketing idea. Dutifully, we each told about some crazy gimmick we had tried, claiming far greater success than was probably true. Except this one particular colleague who, when it came her turn to speak, simply stated that the most effective marketing for her business unit had been to provide the highest quality customer service possible, treating everyone with professionalism, dignity and respect. Well, the boss – to say the least – did not take kindly to that. He wanted a big idea, not that namby-pamby stuff.
Later that evening, though, several of us, myself included, confided privately to that colleague that we agreed with what she had said, but lacked the courage to say so because we did not want to suffer the grief from the boss that she was now having to endure. Instead, we had responded by saying what we knew he wanted to hear, knowing most our ideas were cheesy at best, and the results greatly exaggerated. I think deep down the boss knew that as well, but he needed something to boast about to his superiors.
To be clear, I do believe marketing to be a valuable endeavor, and an essential element in driving our highly competitive economy. But there is a fine line between marketing and boasting, as the above story illustrates; for boasting is about shining the spotlight on one’s self, while marketing focuses on benefits to be gained by others. Our boss’s obvious interest was in profits and job security, the same trap that had snared the rest of us. But one brave colleague took a higher road, speaking boldly about the importance of caring for others first. Hers, despite the abuse she took from the boss, was a true example of what effective marketing should accomplish.
“Let not the wise man boast about his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches . . .” Rather, may those who are wise share it with others, those who are strong use it to protect and strengthen others, and those who are rich show kindness and benevolence toward those who are in need.