News of the nightingale. I've begun with a non-sequitur. And all I can promise you is that I'm going to work my way back to this odd beginning point. What is a source of dissonance here at the outset becomes, in context, a major chord later. News of the nightingale.

Some would-be readers are gone by now. For them—and I have received enough e-mail over the years to know that there are more than a few of these good folks out there—marketing articles are supposed to be utilitarian with all the flourish, warmth, personality or quirkiness of a test of the emergency broadcast system.

My own theory of communication, whether I'm the reader or writer, the listener or speaker, is that both sides need to reach beyond themselves to make any kind of meaningful contact. But, not when I'm speaking to a 911 dispatcher.

With my opening non-sequitur, you may have come to a full stop and felt that I was trying to do too much (this is a marketing article after all, not an art song) and to explain too little.

Or, maybe, you're in splintered-attention mode and barely noticed (if at all) the little pebble I just put in your shoe. (What if attention is all there is of love's presence in the world? And, so when we—in self-defense even—divide it up into ever tinier amounts, we say to the flowers, there is just this tiny bit of sun today.)

My pet ideation is that you trust me enough to keep going. And, from reading me on prior occasions, you don't expect a seamless experience.

The subject of this article is a recurring theme for me: the other. In marketing terms, "the other" is the market, the reader, the prospect, the customer: the other end of your company's messages. For me, the "other" is you.

The Problem of the Other

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Chris Maher is president of Fosforus, an Austin-based, business-to-business marketing, media, and interactive design firm. Reach him at