I think this is probably one of the more important emails we’ve gotten.

Hey guys, Tks for putting out the great podcasts…I have been a faithful listener for some time now. However, I admit that I was disturbed by your references & suggestions to read Goebbels in order to better understand Fear marketing in this podcast. Surely there are better resources to get your readers to understand concepts like segmentation, etc. As a fellow blogger, I understand that sometimes one says something in these social channels without fully processing what it could mean for others (why I am not posting this comment on your blog). My wife is German, so I am sensitive to these remarks.

I hope that you can quickly clarify or retract some of what you said on this podcast because I would like to continue to listen it in the future.

Segmentation and such are of course not unique to Goebbels or most other forms of marketing. What Goebbels was so talented at was manipulation of the popular will, which is an issue of vital importance now more than ever. That suggesting to people that they read his works makes you uncomfortable is good, as it means you understand the implications that what Goebbels did with his talents was unforgivable. The record of history generally agrees that he was the architect of Kristallnachte and ordered Berlin to be purged of Jews entirely.

We all must take the time, however unpleasant it is, to read and understand the works of people like Goebbels, for two reasons. If you truly want to understand how the marketing of fear works, you have to research someone like Goebbels and how he was able to deceive an entire nation of generally good people. If you want to understand how you are being manipulated by your respective governments (since Marketing Over Coffee has an international audience), then you absolutely must read him, along with many others.

If you’re interested in just marketing in general or specific techniques like segmentation, of course there are many other, better resources. However, in the context of the episode, if you want to understand how fear can be used against you as a citizen by your government, and how you can be compelled to agree with or do things that you ordinarily wouldn’t, you have to do your reading and research.

Bear in mind, neither John nor I are advocating that Goebbels’ perspective or beliefs were correct. Goebbels was an evil man, if a talented marketer. Anyone who passionately seeks to eradicate an entire portion of the human race has some serious karmic debt to answer for. However, from the perspective of marketing and being a marketing professional, you have to understand this stuff. You have to know how the tricks are done, see the man behind the curtain. It’s only then that you can see through other attempts to manipulate you today – weapons of mass destruction, imminent financial meltdown, etc. – and know that someone’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Only then can you stand up against those efforts to trick you.

Should you as a marketer use such techniques? That all depends. Marketing techniques that use fear are like any other dangerous tool. A power saw or a gun all have their productive uses in the correct contexts and can be horribly misused in other contexts to tragic ends. You as a marketer have to understand how to use them safely, when to use or not use them, and show them the proper respect that they deserve.

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