A fight, battle or skirmish; a noisy quarrel or brawl.
Fray is a word that's been around a long time. The Middle English word frai, from about 1200, was the likely origin. Over the years, it has meant fight, or even fright. Perhaps there's a fine line there. Or cause and effect. Currently, the word brings to mind mud - like the photo above - and specifically, the slinging of mud.
I speak, of course, of political campaigning. Maybe it's me, but I don't remember campaigns being quite so negative or quite so focused on unimportant non-issues, particularly in a time when issues are all-important. Maybe I have selective memory.
I don't raise the issue of politics to take sides. I raise it as a marketer who is dumbfounded by poor marketing. As brilliant as some political marketing has been in the past, I now see new lows and wonder why. Are candidates locked in a terminal tit-for-tat that began as defense, not offense? Does anyone realize the value of stopping the cycle? An NPR story cites a study by George Washington University that questions the effectiveness of attack ads, showing that while they may be more memorable, they are not likely to change minds or improve voter turnout.
Why does this matter and how can we use this debate in our lives? Most of us aren't politicians or create political ads. But, most of us do sell or market goods or services. Every day. And, unless we're working for a monopoly, we all have competitors. So, every day, we get to choose how we acknowledge our competition, right? Prospects ask us about competitors all the time. We write emails and web copy all the time. We talk with people in meetings and even at parties. What do we say? Do we criticize and belittle our competitors in order to boost our own offerings? Or, do we take the high road and focus on our own strengths and vision?
When was the last time you were passionate about a brand whose mission was to trash the competition? Apple showed a clever comparison by personifying the PC, but that was in good fun. What if all of Apple's marketing had been focused on technical criticism of PC performance and functionality. Not too inspiring. Their brilliance came in the articulation of their own vibe, which millions upon millions wanted to adopt.
How about bringing our politics - and our marketing - out of the mud? It's called staying above the fray and it used to be the classy thing to do. At least if you had anything of value to say or sell. And by the way, you might be familiar with a popular band called The Fray. One of their songs has a lyric that may well apply to the next couple of months: "this may be a long night." The tune's title is "Fair Fight." Give it a listen. Though my hunch is the fairest type of fight is to not have one at all.
Keep it positive,