Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 29, 2010 4:56 PM

On Being A Curmudgeon

When has a curmudgeon ever really done well in Marketing?

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and especially Blogs have a very magical way of bringing those who are a curmudgeon right out into the open. The definition of a curmudgeon is someone who is "bad-tempered, difficult and a cantankerous person." It's not someone who has the occasional "this sucks!" post, and it's not someone who creates content in a passive-aggressive fashion. The amazing thing about those who are curmudgeons is that they rarely know that they behave in this manner, and they often spend the bulk-load of their offline time sulking about the online conversations that are bringing them down.

Be serious. But don't be too serious.

I love everything I do - both personally and professionally. I do my best to put forward both a positive and happy attitude. Is life perfect? No. Am I fully content with my lot in life? Hardly. But, I don't kid myself either. I fall into a very small minority of the population that actually loves what they do each and every day (and, like you, I have my off days as well). I also don't kid myself into thinking that what I do for a living is as important as a school teacher, doctor or someone trying to make a difference in the developing world. I help brands make better connections with their consumers through the many online channels. Nothing more. Nothing less. It pains me to see the online conversation when people are truly aggressive and angry about issues that are really inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

Love what you do. Be passionate about what you do.

How often do you read, see and hear from a Marketing professional who is - without question - a total curmudgeon? Everything sucks. Nobody is saying anything new. Clients are stupid. Agencies don't get it. There isn't an original thought in the world. All new creative is simply a copy of something that has already been done before? So-and-so is a moron. If people don't see my point of view, they are clearly the ones without a  clue. And on and on and on. Do you ever wonder why Marketing attracts so many characters like this?

We're not moving the conversation forward.

If all we ever do is critique, bash and act in a curmudgeonly fashion, we're not only going to have a hard time pushing the conversation forward, we're going to be even more challenged to get the brands into these channels, platforms and new media. Nobody wants to join anything that has people mumbling and grumbling the whole way through.

Rise above.

If someone wants to be a curmudgeon... let them. This is one of those moments in time when we - as a community - give them consent to bother us by feeding their temper and attitudes. Things are good in Marketing and they are getting better. New media, new platforms, new channels, real human connections and individuals connecting up to brands because they care (even if they're saying something negative). Traditional mass media is finding its pace in the digital world and there seems to be room for everybody (while still having room for more disruption).

The real question is this: how do we remove the curmudgeons and get on with the business of doing great work?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by nicole reber
    nicole reber

    i say let them be. unfortunately, there are A LOT of people like this in the industry, but in spite of their negative attitude, the one(s) I know has a way of channeling their underlying positive outlook into work and making REALLY great marketing insights and strategies. having an understanding and supportive team can make a difference in making a difference for clients and their customers. being able to see all the wrong in something isn't necessarily a bad thing, but they do need to know how to bring out the right.

    Reply
  • Posted by Roger Overall
    Mitch Joel

    Wow Mitch, those are powerful words - and they ring so true.

    I think every industry faces a similar problem. In my own, professional photography, there is a lot of negativity. The industry sucks, clients suck, pay sucks, everything sucks. Funny thing is, lots of professionals blame everyone and everything else for the situation they are in. They rarely look at what they can do to improve their situation, let alone improve the wider market.

    The curmudgeons do serve their function, though. The are a very easy way to identifying exactly what the problems are an industry is facing. They're just not that useful for providing constructive solutions.

    That's fine, because the real doers, those positive individuals who do great stuff and move their industry forward, be it marketing, photography, whatever - those people stand out so much more when surrounded by curmudgeons. And that's good because if all around is dark, and you are the shining light, you stand out and attract people more easily, allowing you to to more easily do great stuff.

    Roger

    Reply
  • Posted by Ike
    Mitch Joel

    I would say there are people who are using their "Curmudgeon Cred" as a marketing gimmick.

    If you are on the record online as liking everything and constantly promoting Communitarian Kumbaya, then how does a potential customer take you seriously?

    Much of the online curmudgeonhood is posturing and positioning. Not always palatable, and certainly uncalled-for when it is attacking others personally and professionally.

    Reply
  • Posted by dannybuntu
    Mitch Joel

    I hope that I am not making myself appear like this - though I must admit that I sometimes (Ok, most of the time) fall into temptation.

    That said, I'm not really an Internet Marketer, just a toddler who is very fond with a keyboard (Grins sheepishly)

    As to hard core curmudgeons, I think the Internet would be a less interesting place without them. Misery does love company and there are a lot of it to share around. It keeps the wires of the Interbots fizzing and smoking in unison 24/7.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kneale Mann
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    Another brilliant post. We all have our curmudgeon moments and those are when we should probably step away from the keyboard or a regretful tweet may slip from our keyboard. Or as the old adage goes - if in doubt, leave it out.

    Reply
  • Amazing to see how many people actually follow exactly what you're saying (and they should). I think people - much like my Blog post on creeping - like using these platforms as a gasket to relieve whatever pressure is ailing them at any given time. But, you know what they say about doing things in the heat of the moment (and I'm not talking about the hit song from Asia).

    Reply
  • Well I suppose it depends on the type of curmudgeon. I could be called one for my passion related to integrity and business ethics. I often criticize "the machine," as I like to call it, but I also see the light, which is what I try to share with people.

    If it's all doom and gloom, that's an issue, and you can't make a business just being grouchy all the time. But, sometimes the truth sounds grouchy, which makes it a very tough place to be.

    Reply
  • Posted by Lisa Stockwell
    Mitch Joel

    I suspect that most of the negativity comes from fear—of what they don't understand, of not having stayed current with new media, of their own relevance, of the economy...

    Maybe they're hoping to be proven wrong. Or maybe it's just their personality, using the keyboard to spew their negativity out into the ethernet because those around them refuse to listen to it anymore.

    The joy of the Internet is that we have a delete button.

    Reply
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