In a recent episode of his Akimbo podcast, Seth Godin dropped a rather profound statement in the middle of talking, but I wanted to pause for a minute and unpack it. He simply said:
‘It’s not moral to steal people’s attention”
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of it, but I think it can go a few ways.
When you say “steal” attention, it makes me think of spam. Marketers can call them “cold emails” or “cold calls”, but those are just nice words to say they’re spamming. I’m not always the most polite to people that contact me that way.
However, you also have situations where companies are fighting for your attention in a way that is a bit more acceptable, like TV or radio ads. If I’m watching traditional TV (or non-ad-free Hulu), I expect commercials. I don’t like them, but I know it’s part of the deal — they’re providing content to me, and I’m paying for it with the commercials. It’s unattractive, but completely acceptable.
The difference with
cold emails spam is that you’re getting nothing in return. They’re stealing your attention to try to sell their products, with nothing in return. It’s “just one email”, but if everyone behaved that way we’d descend into chaos.
Proper marketing is about earning attention. Create content that is beneficial and worth sharing. Do work that people talk about. Don’t steal the attention of others — earn it.
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