Are you a ‘democrat’ or a ‘paternalist’?

I joined the great and the good of the UK marketing industry at last night’s Annual Marketing Society Dinner in London. One interesting debating point was whether marketers should consider themselves as the creators, shapers and ultimate guardians of brands, or whether the power has now shifted and changed marketers’ role to one of listening, engaging and responding to what customers tell you they want. I guess it come down to the difference between marketing to customers and marketing with customers. We labelled these two viewpoints as being either a ‘paternalist’ or a ‘democrat’. Which makes me a definite ‘democrat’.
The Social Customer recently drew my attention to an excellent posting on the Lefsetz Letters which really capture my mood right now. Bob was writing about the hype surrounding the new Borat movie, but also condemning some marketers’ obsession with over-publicity. His final paragraph is a peach:
Hearing the movie’s good, I’m gonna give it a chance.  Then again, if Fox keeps trumpeting the story, they’re gonna kill MY word of mouth, I don’t want to work for the man.  And neither does the Net generation.  WE make the stars, not you.  Give us reasonable choices, WE’LL do the work.  It won’t happen instantly.  First week grosses, first week SoundScan numbers, are no longer important.  It’s about longevity.  It won’t take forever, because word of mouth happens so quickly on the Net, and we’re all in touch with SO many more people on a regular basis.  But it’s now our game, not yours, don’t ever forget it.
That’s the sort of bravery it takes to be a ‘democrat’. Having the courage to create something good then seed it to the net generation to let them decide whether it will succeed or not. Whether we marketers like it or not, social communities now have the power to decide. It takes a courageous and forward-thinking marketer to surrender that power and concentrate instead on just making good stuff.
The photos of the Marketing Society Dinner can be found on this Windows Live Spaces page. My colleague Lucilla and I are below.