Generosity has historically been at odds with marketing.
Firstly, from an economic perspective. Anytime we give something away for free, whether it’s an idea, a product or a service, scarcity ceases to exist. The balance of power shifts. Value perception plummets, since people believe they get what they pay for.
And because everybody wants things that other people can’t get, they no longer feel special. By giving things away for free, we’ve robbed them of that privilege.
The second challenge of generosity is, while it’s easy to scale, it’s harder to track. Because when we are promiscuous with our work, taking real time to give things away without the obligation of remuneration, we’re less likely to build a strong attribution model.
Looking back at my twenty years as a book publisher, there is no possibly way for me to calculate the number of copies in circulation, since the majority of my books were given away for free, downloaded anonymously or straight up pirated.
Which is awesome for a freelancer, but try telling that to the marketing director of your organization. When your team cavalierly errs on the side of abundance and ubiquity, giving everything away and hoping for a bigger payoff down the road, measuring that on some spreadsheet, is an exercise in futility.
That would be like eating a slice of pie and trying to calculate how much the apples cost. You simply can’t do it. Not enough information.
Anderson summarizes it perfectly in his groundbreaking book about free:
People often don’t care as much about things they don’t pay for, and as a result they don’t think as much about how they consume them. Free encourages gluttony, hoarding, thoughtless consumption, waste, guilt, and greed. We take stuff because it’s there, not necessarily because we want it. Charging a price, even a very low price, can encourage much more responsible behavior.
Point being, there is no right or wrong answer to the question of giving ourselves away. It’s not a black or white issue. It’s something that exists on a spectrum.
Some people will surprise the world with their neverending flow of generosity, and some people will build scarcity into their work and keep score from the very start.
Both types of people will win, both types of people will lose.
But the question each of us has to ask ourselves is this:
Is feeling joyful and alive in the giving moment worth it? Or are the generous among us fools and easily taken advantage of?
Guess we will never know until we try.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you willing to become generous beyond measure, just to see what happens?