One Crab at a Time

I’ve always believed that an individual can change the world…just take a look at Albert Einstein, Gloria Steinem, Martin Luther King, Susan B. Anthony, Louis Pasteur, Gertrude Stein, Marie Curie, Galileo Galilei, Lech Walesa, Harriet Tubman, and yes, even Bob Dylan. In my younger days, activism was the only way to go. At fifty, I wish I’d kept my bra on (not really).

In my thirties and forties, working through the “system” seemed a better solution. Like so many others, burnout eventually got the better of me as I worked 80 hour weeks and raised my son as a single mother.

Now that I’m at (okay, past) the big Five-O, it seems that my hippie days are not yet behind me. Yes, I still believe that one person can change the world. But now I believe it’s best to focus on doing so one person at a time.

You know the story: “When walking along a beach, someone picks up a crab and throws it back to sea. The other person says ‘why bother—it won’t make a difference—hundreds of crabs die on this beach every year’. To which the reply is: Yes, but it made a difference to this one.”

Not to compare people to crabs (although a case can be made for the comparison), saving one person—physically or mentally–does change their world. And that one person might turn to two, and two to three and so on. Sometimes this becomes a momentum that changes the whole of society; sometimes it simply helps someone have a better life. You just never know how things are going to turn out.

Take drunk driving for example. In the eighties, I was heavily involved in the marketing to deter drunk driving. You might remember that in those days it was commonplace and very acceptable to “have one for the road”. Today, you take the car keys away from driver and call a taxi. This is a monumental shift in collective human behavior and the core values of society. I feel good about the change and the role I played in it. All those nights that I worked late at the office, got up at 2:00 a.m. to design a poster, write a slogan or create graphs about alcohol intake relative to body weight made a difference….a big difference.

And that’s why I got into communication to start with—to influence people’s lives and behavior in positive ways. When the computer “became of age”, it allowed me to focus on direct marketing and how 1:1 communication could be targeted and effective. When the internet became accessible to the masses, it opened new opportunities to interact with individuals in the privacy of their home or in the workplace. Smartphones now keep us connected 24/7. Twitter has revolutionized the world—and, it could be said, has started many a revolution.

Making a difference. Imagine that.

Marketing that counts.