What Ebola Marketing and Booger Eating Ignore
I ride Philly's commuter rail to work each morning. During a recent commute, I sat behind a tall, dark and handsome man in his 30s who was wearing a well-tailored brown wool suit. I noticed him inspecting objects pinched between his thumb, index and middle fingers, then pushing the inspected items into his mouth.
"I can't be seeing this," I thought.
The man was repeatedly pulling the dried mucus out of his nostrils, looking it over and consuming it.
He was a booger eater.
"People probably regularly shake his hand," I mused. "I'll bet they have no idea what they're touching."
This was slightly before Ebola hysteria really hit its crescendo last week, when one of my colleagues was nearly Purelled out of her plane seat by her paranoid neighbor and I was summarily hand-sanitizer-dismissed from abysmal checkout service. (A cashier at my local grocery store had become scared after I coughed into my sleeve.)
What's happening? Are we, as an iPod-listening and smartphone-using society, becoming even more antisocial than we seemingly already were? Are we putting the hype in hypochondria? Or are we just being justifiably vigilant to an omnipresent health threat?
"Education—clear, fact-based and actionable education—is the single most effective thing we can do during the early stages of a contagion," writes Seth Godin on Oct. 12 in his "We Have Ebola" blog post.
By lucky Monday the 13th, the marketing thought leader's words had gone viral on social media among marketers—one of the main channels he says is also being used for evil, in order to spread misinformation at the speed of light.
"It's tempting to panic, or to turn away, or to lock up or isolate everyone who makes us nervous," Godin writes. "But we can (and must) do better than that. Panic, like terror, is also a virus, one that spreads. We have an urgent and tragic medical problem, no doubt, but we also have a marketing problem."