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Be Careful When Pointing Fingers. Three Of Them May Be Pointing Back At You.

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During one of our weekly marketing brainstorming sessions some time back, I mentioned that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act had been approved by the senate and introduced the most sweeping new business regulations since the 1930’s by requiring top officials of public companies to attest to their personal knowledge as to the accuracy of the financial statements.


One of the members popped up and reminded me that the law was passed in response to the US’s second largest long-distance phone company, WorldCom, filing for Chapter 11 in 2002 as an internal audit report showed that the company has been using fraudulent accounting methods to hide its declining financial condition hiding an inflated $11 billion in fictitious assets, including about $3.8 billion in fraudulent accounts. The company was eventually purchased by Verizon Communications and renamed Verizon Business division.

This incident came back to me when I saw someone praised as “the Pied Piper of accountancy marketing.” We’re meant to recall children irresistibly following the Pied Piper in the famous folktale. However, the Piper had been hired to lure rats away from the town and hadn’t been paid. In revenge, he lured the town’s children away and probably killed them. Not exactly a positive reference!

The pied Piper had been hired to lure rats away from the town and hadn't been paid. Click To Tweet

Similarly, I saw an Australian financier headlined as a “modern-day Jay Gatsby.” This evokes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fabulously wealthy main character in The Great Gatsby. However, the fictional Gatsby made his fortune by bootlegging. Below the surface, this epithet implies the financier had a disreputable background.

Before embracing a branding story, look up the reference involved to make sure you’re not unwittingly insulting yourself.

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