While it seems like the entire world is grinding to a halt, there are still plenty of examples where inertia is carrying life through. Take, for instance, advertising. When Mayor Mike Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race, I still got postcards and mail from his campaign for a week or two. I’m still seeing ads with a March Madness theme even though the tournament, which would’ve wrapped up this week, has long since been canceled.
But Madison Avenue also has a bottom line and they’ll continue to do anything they can to keep you buying Coca-Cola and Chevrolets and Downy Fabric Softener. If only there was some way to acknowledge that the world has turned upside down, but use it as shorthand so that we can get back to selling you Big Macs and Tombstone Pizza.
Enter “these trying times.” By now, you’ve surely gotten dozens of emails from companies you may or may not have relationships with. (I got one from Victoria’s Secret?) And they all start the same way. “In these trying times, we
Madison Avenue is undefeated. An expression of compassion is a cheap and easy free ad for your suddenly compassionate business. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am certain that Bob Slammabamma of Grand Salami Sandwiches really does care that my family and I are well. But…did they not before? Was it just this week that you’ve started wiping down the countertops with 409?
By now, we get it. Every business is thinking of us in these trying times. These trying times are trying our time. Send me an email if you DON’T care about these trying times.
Better yet, send me an email that reads, “In these trying times, I’d like you to know that I have personally given back my $8 million dollar salary, and everyone that works for me by the hour will now get double their pay.” THAT is an email that would floor me.
But, of course, with only a few exceptions, that email won’t go out. When these times are less trying, companies will go back to their efforts to sell you sandwiches and laundry detergent. When these times are less trying, the emails saluting you in these trying times will stop. It makes you wonder if you even tried during the times before these trying times.
In fact, in the triad of folks affected in these trying times, the government, corporations, and the workers, I’m only seeing one of these groups really trying. It’s the same team that, not coincidentally, works extra hours, shows up early, stays late, and goes the extra mile never to see triumph, but only to see an email about these trying times.
In these trying times, what we need is actual action instead of trying that tries our patience with empty empathy.
(Work your way through these trying times by following Chris Kamler on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed)