Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What is value?

Now here's a loaded question! Another one of which begets as many questions as answers...

...and I pose this particular question because the use of this word is included in the American Marketing Association's response to this question:

What is marketing?

And its latest definition is...

Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.

So, disregarding for a moment the myriad questions which might arise from the first question demanding of a rational answer, let's presuppose we understand value to simply mean something worthwhile.

As students of internet marketing, Mark and I are very interested in exercising sound judgment - to the best of our abilities - as we chart our course in this new business.

We like to believe our principal reason for beginning this new business is so we can gain more freedom to live our lives in a purpose-driven, more playful and joyful manner.

In previous posts I briefly discussed plausible definitions for the words freedom and reason as they were also component parts of questions preceded by the words What is ______ - similarly to the question we have before us now.

It's true that these rhetorical questions examined here can lead only to even more questions - if we are to expect logical answers. Not the least of which, of course, are:

What is rhetoric...or rhetorical?...


What is logic...or logical?


But let's not go there right now, okay?

Forgive me if I interrupt this discussion with a little story...

When I was a boy my younger brother, sister and I were coerced, then forced, to eat liver...when my mother prepared it for the family sit-down - and, boy, we hated the taste of it!

It started out harmlessly enough...because chickens then, as now, typically come with the paper-wrapped heart, kidneys, gizzard, and liver inside the cavities of said birds...meant to cook separately from the chicken itself.

And we ate a lot of chicken at our house - prepared in all the usual ways home cooks dealt with this popular food staple.

In my parents' salad days - during the time before the Great Depression was drawing to a close - there was a slogan, "A chicken in every pot, and a Ford in every garage."

This was one of the prevailing mantras for all those aspiring to a comfortable middle-class lifestyle in those days; and the measure of a family's having attained these only-average material needs was the mean common denominator for what was understood to be the basis for achieving The American Dream.

Their own parents raised them with the experience of scarcity informing their families' value system - so much so, that wanton disregard and waste of important necessities of everyday living was considered a real sacrilege.

Thus, to turn one's nose up at food - any food - was, for Mom and Dad, not only repugnant, but downright immoral too!

And loving their spoiled, unreasonable children meant imposing some discipline on them - even if it meant corporal punishment was their response to our supposed transgressions of their authority.

Because another dictum of the times was, Spare the rod, and spoil the child, and, like their parents before them, they wanted to do right by their kids, didn't they? siblings and me got a helluva lot of whuppins growing up, let me tell ya. But those beatings we endured for detesting the taste of liver - for over several of our tenderest years - are the ones which still stick in my mind to this day.

Under threat of more of the same, we tried faking it...secretly spitting it out... holding our noses while swallowing the vile stuff...chasing it with the strongest beverage within our immediate grasp...before throwing it up...even direct insubordination - all manner of protestations were met with the same expectation of one more traumatic and hurtful family drama lesson.... which Mom or Dad would often remind us, "This is gonna hurt me - more than it's gonna hurt you!"

Dad had an old-fashioned GI belt, and the rule was, if you moved your target butt away from where he was aiming, your beating was just gonna be worse.

And this action wasn't based on any fair rule at all!

A lot depended on our tolerance for pain...and Dad's presumed responsibility not to permanently disfigure us...or leave any noticeable welts the neighbors or our teachers at school might see...not to forget, Dad's mood...or predisposition to sadistic violence...if he'd had a bad day at work...or if he was really angry at Mom, etcetera.

After a very long while we got used to choking chicken liver down - even if none of us dared to sample the giblets. By then Mom was taken with the idea of cooking calves' liver, always with a bunch of oily browned onions and brown pan gravy...

No wonder the French and the Italians - most of the world - considered that American dining pleasures were just beyond the years before and after WWII.

I know I seriously considered I might really be a closet vegetarian growing up - and actually I left home.

Here's one moral of this story which might be inferred...

One person's idea of what is something worthwhile is not necessarily and easily transferable to another. In our capitalist society money is only assigned a value as it is merely a convenient representation of its perceived value in an exchange of some sort.

We neglect to scrutinize it...beyond what it our own risk - or reward, for that it's but a medium for the exchange of equivalent values which drives all capitalist enterprise.

Because money - like value - is always seen, kinda like beauty, in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?

One man's junk is another man's treasure...and so on and so forth.

But here's the rub...

As internet marketers, when our businesses are dependent upon closing the deal, in the face of tremendous competitive forces swirling all around us, we must also dance the dance of the high wire artist - at least in our minds - teetering between the back-and-forth use of ethical persuasion tactics and our purported aims and desires.'s not so much that we don't want to deliver - even over deliver - on our promises...and deliberately take advantage of, or mistreat, those with which we exchange values...goods or services, in exchange for money, for instance. It's that we're also dealing with issues of qualitative value measurement as well.

In other words, we naturally lean toward pathways of least resistance at all times - so focused are we on gaining that qualitative edge as measured by our quantitative desire to come out of any deal with the continuous wherewithal to grow and prosper in our businesses.

Don't we?

Therefore, in this socio-economic climate, we make bad deals, so-so deals, and good deals for ourselves all the time - even outside the context of our businesses - even exclusive of situations involving money.

With exchanges of value - or trade-offs - our charts are examined, and our ships of state are set on course - often to uncharted waters far from shore.

So it is with our lives - we must sink or swim...often with sharks...or remain afloat...onto our merry ways.

Mom or Dad would've advised...Be a good boy now...and...Eat up, son - or go stand in the corner! as the rules by which to govern our actions in the world.

To this day, like you maybe, I wanna value you precisely as much as you value me, if not more so. In a perfect world, I want to do good by you; and you want to do good by me.


I know I value the memories of my childhood - even forgive all those trespasses on my freedom. And all the mistakes I've made allowing myself to get ripped-off...or ripping myself off...all of my own volition...on my own accord.

I retain a healthy respect for authoritarian power structures as they exist - even if, to me, they often seem unreasonable for me to wanna buy into from the get-go.

Being naturally skeptical, I never forget a betrayal of trust - by anyone, including myself!

But then skepticism is really not enough, is it?

The answers for what might seem valuable to us are sometimes elusive, if always, at least, illusory - even with the clearest of thinking and the best of outcomes for all exchanges we want to see happen.

And knowledge of good and evil, alas, reveals only more of the same, wouldn't you say?

Thus it is, we tend to value what we esteem to be good - somewhat or more than worthwhile upon first glance - when it can be, in fact, like for our three storybook children who despised the taste of liver, really very bad.

Or so it seems...and it usually goes.