At what point do you start believing in your own bullshit?

It’s like with advertising people and their company philosophies and their unique methods of unearthing the brand essence. Believe me, I’ve heard it all. Right from the old USP days to Higher Order Laddering to Hofstede, Kapferer Brand Prisms. In the last agency I worked for, the buzzwords were “postmodern” and “pop culture” which was a deconstruction of the parent company’s greatest hits.

I use all of it, whenever it suits my purpose. I see them all a means to an end. If there’s some Marketing guy who believes fervently in Hofstede, we’ll give you a Hofstede. It really doesn’t matter so long as your persuasive logic is strong and you understand the market and competition. My relationship with these methods are purely opportunistic.

But it never ceases to amaze me how, after a few hundred presentations convincing clients using the same patented logic, some planners actually start believing in their bullshit.

It’s a curious phenomenon.

It begins as opportunistic behavior. A simple means to an end. Let’s get the concept sold. But, after a while they start fervently believing in this stuff. The abyss, it seems, begins to stare back. And then, nothing else will do. Trends may come and go, consumers may change, medium might change but the old dog refuses to learn new tricks.

I still know some marketing guys who will swear by Ries & Trout.

Now I was pondering this fact in the morning while reading something about Modi being compared to Hitler. What if it was the same psychological process at work there? The late Hitler historian Alan Bullock, analysing Hitler described him as purely an opportunistic actor who didn’t even believe in his anti-Semitism at first but later became “the actor that came to believe his own act.”

Or, as John Updike put it so memorably “the mask eats the face” (speaking of the degradation of celebrity).

People like Modi and Bal Thackeray are demagogues. People roar in their thousands when they express certain feelings. After a while, like the hacks going to the meetings with their Hofstede models, they bring more conviction into their speeches by pretending to ‘feel’ what they say. And after repetitive action, the feeling becomes a real feeling. It is a most curious phenomenon. I’m sure psychology has some term, something syndrome or the other to label this behaviour.

Maybe there is a cure. Then again, there probably isn’t. Belief is a powerful thing.

Arsenal fans will know what I’m talking about.