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The Marketer as Philosopher: by Flint McGlaughlin

"Asking 'how' leads to information; asking 'why' leads to wisdom." This is the essence of Dr. Flint McGlaughlin's book, The Marketer as Philosopher.

After twenty five years of asking "why" to a single question and testing his hypotheses using the web as a living laboratory, McGlaughlin has released a collection of his findings. These 40 brief reflections unfold in a series of layers that suggest a new framework and theory of messaging.

For more information, you can visit www.meclabs.com/mapbook

Latest Observations

On the Key to Staying Focused

Topic:Personal
Posted on:Jan 8, 2018
Method:Dictation
Captured by:Flint M

Someone asked me recently, “how do you stay focused and consistent when you have to do the same task over and over again?” My answer was this: “I never do the same task twice in a row.” The answer is misleading, but what I mean is that every time I do something, I try to improve it over the last cycle. Every call, every routine, every time. This keeps my mind engaged in what I am doing. It is a key to keeping your heart and soul “all in.”  

On Leadership and the Artful Use of the Three Tenses

Topic:Leadership
Posted on:Jan 5, 2018
Method:Dictation
Captured by:Flint M

The leader must manage the present tense in view of the past and the future. Never let the present tense distort your perspective. This is especially true of relationships. The only valid use of the two tenses, past and future, is to improve the present. Too often, we carry, from the past, negative influences such as guilt or bitterness; too often, we borrow, from the future, negative influences, such as fear or worry. The past and the future do not exist (physics), except as concepts (philosophy) with which to empower our present. Looking at the future or remembering the past, in the best way, can inspire my present tense action. The artful leader disciplines their use of the three tenses to produce the highest and best performance "now". 

On the Power of Seeming

Topic:Communication
Posted on:Jan 3, 2018
Method:Dictation
Captured by:Flint M

Words matter. Small words seem to matter more. One word seems to matter most: hope. The will to live is inextricably intertwined with the power to hope (Camu aside). But the power to hope is sometimes dependent on another word. This word is more subtle, more nuanced, less used, and less valued.

This is the word, "seems".

With only five letters, it draws an essential distinction between that which is and that which may be, while at the same time layering a force to the possible. It is stronger than a guess, yet weaker than a claim, and with this distinction becomes indispensable to the scientific method. The "seeming" OF is an inference TO, and thus forms a bridge to the working hypothesis.

On the Danger of Data without Context ​

Topic:Leadership
Posted on:Dec 22, 2017
Method:Dictation
Captured by:Flint M

Mistakes made with data rarely have to do with the math. Data plus data equals more data; data plus context (pattern recognition) equals wisdom. Data without context is like sex without love; it can feel good, but it lacks true meaning. 

On Motivation and Doing what You Need to Do

Topic:Leadership
Posted on:Dec 15, 2017
Method:Dictation
Captured by:Flint M

Each leader has to do what they need to do, but people often fall into two categories: those who do what they need to do, in order to do what they want to do, and those who do what they need to do so they do not have to do what they do not want to do. Life is more fulfilling when you place yourself squarely in the former. 

On Leadership and the Power of Will

Topic:Leadership
Posted on:Dec 12, 2017
Method:Dictation
Captured by:Flint M

Some leaders are bound to change the world, regardless of the tool they use. If you give this man a hammer, he will reshape the world with it; if you give him a wrench, he will do the same. Whatever you put in his hand will be applied from, and by, his unique combination of energy and will. Steve Jobs was an artist, and though the context of his art was engineering, he still changed the world. It is not the tool that makes the man, it is the man that makes the tool.

On the Pseudo-Certainty of Science

Topic:Philosophy
Posted on:Nov 30, 2017
Method:Dictation
Captured by:Flint M

I find the bias in science to be even more disappointing than the bias in religion. More to the point, I find the sense of certainty with which some scientists speak to be more disappointing than the sense of certainty with which some religious leaders speak. In both cases, we seem to be confused about the difference between evidence, certainty, and faith. Our inability to parse the difference leads to a condition of pseudo-certainty that defies the limited nature of our actual circumstances. 

On Leadership and the Importance of Honest Dialogue

Topic:Leadership
Posted on:Nov 16, 2017
Method:Dictation
Captured by:Flint M

Leaders tend to use relationships to achieve meaningful KPIs, but relationships are not built around KPIs, they are built around honest dialogue. KPIs are useful for management, but they are insufficient for inspiration. The leader can drive his team with goals or draw his team with trust. The first can help you achieve the possible, but only the second can help you overcome the impossible.  

On the Balance between Craftsmanship and Genius

Topic:Communication
Posted on:Nov 14, 2017
Method:Dictation
Captured by:Flint M

Great art is not made by the artist, it only escapes from the artist. The moment you try to construct the parts and the multi-layered magic that makes art, it becomes contrived. That is why creative writing teachers seldom write the great stories. That is why those who teach music in schools seldom compose the great songs. The artist can apply craftsmanship, but they cannot craft genius. 

On the Molecular Unit of Communication

Topic:Communication
Posted on:Nov 13, 2017
Method:Dictation
Captured by:Flint M

The molecular unit of optimization is the sentence. Every single principle associated with optimizing any form of marketing can be understood, perhaps best understood, in the context of improving a sentence. A sentence represents the basic grammar of life. Entity exists; subject “predicates”.

  • There are only three ways to improve a sentence: to add, to remove, to change. This is the same for any instance of marketing collateral.
  • A good sentence is structured with an optimized flow, the sequence of thought. This involves considerations of order: point first, point middle, or point last. Again, this is the same in marketing.
  • A sentence typifies specific forms of communication: the imperative, the declarative, the interrogative, etc. Once again, this is the same in marketing (indeed, marketing today employs far too much declaration and not enough explanation).

My point is not to make an exhaustive list, but to demonstrate that by focusing on the art of creating a beautiful (read effective) sentence, one may learn the essential insights necessary to shaping any other form of communication. As Strunk and White espoused, “make every word tell.”