The ESA, a lobbying group that puts on E3 every year, has accidentally leaked a slideshow that is detailing how they plan to “rebrand” E3 to make it more relevant. Most of the document expresses a desire to make the conventions more “fan” oriented, akin to something like PAX. The “new” E3 would showcase influencers and celebrities to make the conference more “entertaining” and less of a press event.
The part that I found particularly noteworthy is the “Social Good” section of the slideshow. It mentions how research shows that Millennials and Gen Z are more interested in giving to charity and “social good” than previous generations. Because of that, the ESA believes that E3 needs to appear pro-charity and pro-social good if they want to look cool in people’s eyes. They believe that this can store up good will that can be used later to make up for unpopular choices they (or gaming in general) will make later down the road.
It goes on to say that they want to involve influencers and celebrities who promote “social good” like diversity and gender-equality so that E3 draws more “attention and excitement across media outlets”. For me, I can’t help but think of the Gillette commercial.
At the time of its release, the razor company’s The Best Men Can Be ad campaign was lauded and celebrated for using the company’s influence for good. And while I agree with the heart of the campaign’s message, the precedent that it sets gives me pause.
Perhaps Gillette was genuine and there was no foul play. But I guarantee that after the success of that campaign, every marketing firm and marketing division of every major corporation in America was having a “how can we look woke” meeting. “How can we get what Gillette has? Everyone is talking about Gillette. We want those hashtags. We want to be the trending topic. We want the likes and comments. We want that mind-share.”
“Gillette did it by appearing socially conscious. How can we pander next?”
This leaked slideshow is proof of my theory. I think it is evidence that when a major corporation with fiduciary duty to stakeholders starts talking about social causes that are particular relevant at this point in time more than the quality of their products, it should set off some red flags of doubt in your mind.
Truth be told, I wonder if this is a problem that we’ve created. You may be saying, “isn’t it a good thing that this generation cares about social causes and things of value? Isn’t that better than not caring at all?”
Yes, it is better. But I’d argue that the way in which we are doing so is easily exploitable and damaging. We have expressed these ideals in a way that has set them up to be “cool.” Like the latest fashion trend, being “woke” is being “cool.” And there’s a huge problem there, because “cool” has always been shallow, fleeting, and ultimately meaningless. Things of value should not exist in the same realm as “cool.”
When we make being pro-women, pro-minority, and pro-charity the new “cool,” we are doing such principles a disservice. Important things should be above “cool”, not on par or beneath it. When ideals with an ethical/moral value get in bed with “cool,” terrible things start happening. This new “moral-cool” gives birth to a terrible dragon known as self-righteousness.
When something is cool, you can brag about it.
When something is bragged about, the next guy can brag about it more than you.
When that hierarchy exist, people start competing.
At that point, it’s no longer about helping your fellow man; it’s about making yourself look better than everyone else. If you can prove that you are more woke than the next caveman, your value goes up. It’s not about social good, but social status. We can get so caught up in the arms-race of looking as virtuous as possible that we miss the mark and forget the original purpose of why such values were promoted in the first place.
And now, marketing has caught on to our little game and is crouched at the door with intent to exploit.
What kind of future are we setting up for our children, grandchildren, and future generations when we position important values to occupy the same space that bell-bottoms and Linkin Park once did?
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
Reasonable Assessment is commentary series written by Noah Copeland, a somewhat interesting human. Noah makes music, games, and films, and stands at exactly average height. You can follow him on Twitter @NoahCopeland