What can Dan Barber’s foie gras parable teach marketers?

On my LinkedIn home page this morning I saw the strangest thing, which upon reading reminded me of foie gras. It was an article on digital advertising by Geoffrey Moore entitled “Digital Display Advertising — Where Art Thou?” Now, if he’d said “Wherefore Art Thou?” (WHY are you here, instead of WHERE are you?) it wouldn’t have seemed so absurd, but I read on. The undercurrent was one of advocacy of old-style interruption marketing — or what I call gavage marketing.

Then came the thoughts of foie gras and I was reminded of Eduardo Sousa, a Spanish farmer who practices an ethical version of producing the delicacy. His family, over several generations has perfected a method of gavage-free foie gras production. Dan Barber’s TED talk above tells the whole story, but what they essentially do is plant everything that geese like to gorge on (inbound marketing) and the geese live happily in his garden. Still more remarkable is that the geese on his farm call up to flocks passing over, inviting them to land and they join his flock. That’s true brand evangelism. Viral marketing works because people — geese, in this case — want it.

A bit later, another article grabbed my attention. Owen Thomas on “10 Apps That Changed How We Think About Shopping.” He cites useful apps, including Amazon Price Check, Square, and Yardsale — in other words digital work that sells by adding value. Mr. Moore, here’s your digital advertising — cleansed of the Orwellian noxiousness of the stuff you’re used to.

As it turns out, Barber’s foie gras parable applies to people as well. I’m not that different from geese. When a sponsored message is shoved in my face, there’s an invisible ramrod behind it, but when you offer something I truly want, I accept it. Let’s stop force-feeding in our marketing. Let’s continue our evolution toward using our humanity to serve others with experiences they want.

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  • Jin

    Jan17 An investigation at Hudson Valley Foie Gras (www.hudsonvalleyfoiegras.com) in New York discovered that duck mortality due to force-feeding was so common that workers who managed to kill fewer than 50 birds per month were given a bonus.

    • Barry


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