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All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

--J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954

Tolkien might have been surprised to see his writing quoted in a discussion of technology and marketing, but I believe there is a strong connection.

I have always appreciated Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, returning periodically to enjoy it again since I first read it almost 40 years ago. And although Peter Jackson's film adaptation was worthy of Tolkien's original creation, many aspects of Tolkien's wisdom were inevitably lost in the translation. The films emphasize the action, and do a wonderful job of presenting those aspects. But much of Tolkien's writing is just too thoughtful and too descriptive for film.

Illustration: J.R.R. Tolkien

The quotation above is a good example. In The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book of the trilogy, Tolkien uses these words to open a poem about Aragorn, whose role in the story is vastly more important than his appearance -- as Strider, the old and weather-beaten Ranger -- would suggest. Rather than simply introducing his character, Tolkien uses the poem to make the general point that we should not mistake appearances for reality.

How true this is, and yet how easy to forget. Especially in the world of technology, where people are so often fooled by the glitter of the latest, seemingly golden, trend or product. Unfortunately the worst kinds of promotional activities actually encourage such deceptions, giving the Marketing profession a reputation for distorting the truth.

Holistic marketing

Yet to be truly effective, Marketing should be exactly the opposite. Whenever I find that the engineer in me is becoming cynical about marketing hype, I remind myself of the following authoritative description of marketing management:

Marketing Management

One of the main management disciplines, encompassing all the strategic planning, operations, activities, and processes involved in achieving organizational objectives by delivering value to customers. Marketing management focuses on satisfying customer requirements by identifying needs and wants and developing products and services to meet them. In seeking to satisfy customer requirements, marketing aims to build long-term relationships with customers and with other interested parties and to provide value to them. This begins with market research, which analyzes needs and wants in society, and continues with attracting customers and the cultivation of mutually beneficial exchange processes with them. Tools used in this process are diverse and include market segmentation, brand management, PR, logistics, and direct response marketing, sales promotion, and advertising.

--Business, The Ultimate Resource. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2002; page 1283.

At UpRight Marketing, we use the term holistic marketing to describe this well-rounded view, but we simplify it to "getting the right product to the right customer with mutual value". This is how we approach the work of marketing, our business clients, and our objectives for this blog.


  • You can pick up a copy of Business, The Ultimate Resource for a few dollars on Amazon these days. At that price, this 2200-page reference book is a real bargain.
  • For more insightful J.R.R.Tolkien quotes, see the QuoteDB site.

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Reader Comments (1)

If a product is truly good, there is no need for tricks or deceptive marketing. A company can confidently advertise his or her products and/or services without shame. There is a right and a wrong way to advertise, but it doesn't involve deception. Using video sites like Adwido, a company can effectively communicate his or her message through the audio visual aid of video.

Aug 9, 2009 at 12:17AM | Unregistered Commentermlgreen8753

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