Toxic Missionaries

26 Apr 2004|Added Value

On my way to work this morning, I encountered three men handing out flyers. As I approached them, they stuck their mechanical arms out in front of me hoping to block my passage and be heard. They came within inches of my mid-section and then retracted at the last second as if some kind of sensor had indicated I was within a mere 25 millimeters. They quite possibly could have been deaf or mute because they didn’t say a word to me – didn’t identify why they were blocking my route, what they were handing me, or why they thought that I should listen to them. Nothing. I started to contemplate why I hadn’t taken their flyer until, amidst their paper-pushing, one turned to the other and said, “So, did you have a good weekend?”

I proceeded to follow them down the street—I wasn’t curious enough to stalk them, our routes just collided. They were now walking in front of me, side by side, blocking people’s passage on their left and on their right. I got a glimpse of the words on the flyer…”How toxic are you?” it said. Isn’t that ironic. Imagine all of the “toxic” activities that went into producing that flyer. The rest of the flyer looked like a quiz evaluating your toxicity. Whew, glad I didn’t take it.

The most interesting thing I observed was that 9 out of the 10 people that did take the flyer were men. Why were men more susceptible to this? Is it because pornographers and strip clubs have set a known precedent in flyer-pushing? Are women just more distrusting? I mean, who really buys into the idea of a wash, cut and style for $20 anymore? In a lot of environments today, you’re headed for disaster when you accept someone’s sales advances – I wonder if this idea is shared by both genders.

I started thinking…issues of trust pervade so many parts of our lives today. And, it’s so interesting to me to see how computers have affected our behaviors throughout our lives…I don’t trust that the email coming into my inbox is “clean” let alone someone handing me a piece of paper on the street. So much of it is about distance and discretion. In the early 90’s, I really felt that brands were the gatekeepers for information, and people’s level of trust in the information a reflection of their level of trust towards the brand. Now, I feel as if we’re moving to a place where the channel impacts people’s trust even more. New models and behaviors designed to cultivate our trust are deepening, widening, exploding. At the same time, our senses becoming more refined, more tuned in, more savvy all around.

I’d like to continue this thread on trust…more soon!

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