by Kenneth Rudich
Question: What will happen when, in the Summer of 2015, the CBS Television Network, the Big Brother TV Show, and the California Drought all converge once again on Gunsmoke Avenue in Los Angeles (home to the United States version of the CBS Big Brother TV Show)?
Answer: While we anticipate it will deliver loads of fun and entertainment, we do hope it won’t include any simulated rainstorms with water that’s been locally sourced.
But these are far from ordinary times, insofar as California is in its fourth straight year of extreme drought conditions.
We first reported on this disappointing use of water at the conclusion of last summer’s edition of the Big Brother TV Show. You can view the Stylized PPT Video version titled, “CBS Big Brother Show Defies Cali Drought Plea” below, or read the illustrated text version “CBS Big Brother Show Cheerfully Indifferent to Cali Drought.”
One Drought Year Later
The drought has gotten worse, by a lot.
The scarcity of water has led to the imposition of pesky state regulations for conserving it.
Many of the affected citizens have grown restless and testy about certain aspects of the regulations.
And this disagreeable circumstance has now escalated into a contentious public concern.
Some may argue it’s a rather minuscule amount of water compared to what we’re talking about in the context of the big picture.
Others may ask, what’s the problem? CBS can use the water however it pleases, even if it involves additional fees or fines. They don’t care, they’ll just pay for it. After all, that’s the way capitalism works.
To these folks, and any others who hold a similar position, we say, “You’re right.”
CBS is unique in that they can exercise this prerogative like few others can, especially when weighed against those who must try their level best to avoid additional fees or fines, or can’t make it rain even if they want to because their wells have run dry.
Unlike these folks, CBS Big Brother can easily foot the bill for the drama of a simulated rainstorm effect, and they have good reason to assume the local water district will fulfill their desire so long as it can.
And yet, just because they can doesn’t mean they should.
CBS PR Campaign
The mixed message it sends brings into question their business integrity, and it raises doubts about the credibility of the PR Campaign.
Even worse, it’s bad marketing because it’s a titanic display of socially irresponsible behavior. While other Californians in close proximity face grueling consequences due to the drought, CBS Big Brother is combining a mixture of arrogance and indifference to add salt to the wound.
And who knows how much this lax attitude gets multiplied when viewed by millions in their homes or on personal devices. Because not only does the sight of using water in this manner, and under these conditions, fail to discourage such waste, it contributes a measure of social proof to suggest it’s okay.
For those who don’t know, Social Proof is a psychology concept that explains the tendency for humans to engage in herd-like behavior. In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini proposes that people are more likely to find actions appropriate when others are doing them.
There are many ways to influence a populous with social proof, some legitimate and good, others not so much. In this case, the choice to use local water in this frivolous manner carries the potential for persuading Californians to ignore the circumstance of a drought and just do as they please – like CBS.
Unfortunately, such a message flies in the face of the very real need for a new mindset about water conservation in this already parched state.
A Marketing Lesson
The lesson for marketers is to be consistent in all your marketing communications, whether verbal or nonverbal in form. Don’t declare something as a core value, only to contradict it in word or deed later. Doing so will risk confusing your audience, watering down your credibility, and compromising your chance to keep the enterprise sustainable.
Which brings us back to CBS Big Brother in the summer of 2015.
Will the television network be true to its word about caring?
Or will it instead go down the path of intellectual dishonesty, otherwise known here as dancing with hypocrisy?