Marketing reputation vs. reputational marketing

Recently, a research charity organisation, which in the past has deemed my work worthy of funding, invited me to speak at one of their public events, wherein patients, relatives, fund-raisers, charity staff and scientists get together in order to raise the profile of its work and the research it patronises. Great! No problem with that. All for it. Scientists getting out there and interacting with the public, and aiding the fund-raising activities of their benefactors. Benefits all round. More of it!

Except, I’m slightly narked.

The event in question was cancelled, due, apparently, to the decided unsuitably of the venue. Okay fine; means I can get on with other things, but by all means do contact me again as and when you re-arrange for a future date and we’ll see if it’s possible. However, it’s just come to my attention, after the scheduled date, that the announcement for the original event is still on their website – and I’m not happy about it.

If you are want to stop by here from time to time you may gather that I am prone to irritation by certain aspects of marketing. I don’t intend that as a blanket statement. I live in the western consumer society, and am fortunate enough to be able to spend my money on products of my choosing, about which I require information as to their availability, quality, benefit, and so on. Thus, advertising and marketing have a role; moreover, I can occasionally be impressed by some of the skill and artistry involved. When it’s subtle, and balanced, and, well, respectful, then fine. But then there’s the rest: the spinning, patronising, over-hammed, exploitative brand that just seems to smother everything in our lives.

(I’m aware at this point that I’m coming across as that flat-capped nutter on the bus, who thinks people are interested in his bigoted moaning. Even though I’m suckered in as much as anybody. But look where this scruple-stripping drive to make money has gotten us. One might consider it positively evil.)

Case in point: the new ‘Pot Noodle’ TV commercial. Expensively produced tosh containing a bunch of young, work-desperate actors / dancers / singers who later in life will surely look back in shame at the self-prostitution of their dignity.


It’s just occurred to me that I could get in trouble for that. I’ve just publicly offered up an opinion that could be deemed detrimental to the ‘reputation’ of the company that produces a product that is salt-prevented from tasting like reconstituted cardboard. At the libel hearing:

  • Judge: “Did you or did you not state that ‘Pot Noodle’ tastes like cardboard?”
    Me: “Well, yes.”
    Judge: “You must understand that this is detrimental to the reputation of its manufacturer. Do you have evidence to back up your assertion as fact?”
    Me: “Well, I’ve tasted it. And it is commonly acknowledged that it tastes like cardboard.”
    Judge: “But its manufacturer asserts otherwise. A lot of people eat ‘Pot Noodle’, so presumably, they consider it a good product that contributes to their diet and, hence, well-being. So how can you make your assertion?”
    Me: “Because it’s shoite!”
    Judge: “Then you must demonstrate that they are marketing and selling Pot Noodle as the greatest snack in history, when in actual fact they know its not.”
    Me: “How am I supposed to do that when they pay idiots to say it’s good?”
    Judge: “So you are saying the claims they make for their product are bogus, and that people who consume it are being taken in?”
    Me: “People are gullible, m’lud.”


Where was I? Oh yeah – the charity. Which I’m not going to name here, by the way, because I do not seek to denigrate its good and important work. But in its promotional blurb it: 1. Over-promoted me; and 2. Informed that I would be speaking on an area of research unfamiliar to me. This was not as discussed in the communications I exchanged. And I was not shown this ‘advertisement’ for pre-approval. Had the event gone ahead, a hoodwinked audience may well have been disappointed by my not-as-billed presentation. If my ‘rank’ and area of research does not meet with requirements, then there are plenty of more exalted scientists with the relevant expertise, surely.

Am I overreacting? Am I being naive? Because it’s a charity, should I be more charitable? I understand and am largely endorsing of its motives and activities. But I don’t understand why that should involve misrepresentation (of me). You would think its ‘product’ is strong enough.


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