An ancient sage, when asked the meaning of the Bible, is said to have replied, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The rest is commentary.” What we call the Golden Rule appears in most of the world’s belief systems in one form or another. It has stood as a beacon of morality for centuries.

So what’s that have to do with marketing?

Marketing messages have evolved over the years — from simple notices announcing product availability, to hard-sell pitches delivered in person and mass media, to carefully researched multimedia appeals targeting highly segmented audiences.

Thanks to the influence of social media, marketing has continued to evolve, toward user-selected messages. In other words, instead of blasting what we as marketers want to tell consumers, they now have the power to choose which messages they want to consume. The days of interruption marketing are dwindling.

That means our messages better be relevant, helpful and entertaining. If consumers don’t see the benefit of we have to say, they’re not going to listen.

This is why content marketing has become such an important strategy. By delivering useful information to carefully selected targets, our messages are welcomed, not avoided. Think about “how-to” videos for do-it-yourselfers, recipe sites for cooks, and research that helps investors. It’s a softer sell, for sure, but it’s much more effective in building loyalty and attracting traffic.

The Golden Rule

That brings us to the Golden Rule of Marketing: “Sell unto others as you would have them sell unto you.”

Think about it. Do you enjoy advertising? Robo calls? Spam? Of course not.

We appreciate authentic, genuine messages from trusted sources that enlighten, entertain and help us do the things we want to do better. You may not fit the target demographic for every campaign you work on, but you can still appreciate the difference between helpful messages and interruptions.

Next time you start a campaign — for internal or external audiences — give it the “golden rule” test: Is this how you want to be sold?

Who do you see in the market place that follows the golden rule? And who do you see that doesn’t?