Except for a brief stint selling books at Barnes & Noble, and an even briefer stint selling janitor supplies, I spent most of my working life producing advertising and marketing communications. Better than forty years. And I never saw anything like what’s happening in Russia now.

In marketing communications, a marketer tries to dominate media. The marketer does it by trying to get the best and most slots for his or her product. He or she tries to have the best, or at least the most popular, product on the market. Some marketers try to dominate mass markets. Others maybe create niche markets.

My personal tenet in marketing communications was that I would never lie to sell a product or service. Sometimes that put me at cross-purposes with others in sales and marketing. But generally, if I told those people it would be their decision . . . their responsibility . . . not mine if the lie was outed, they’d temper their claims.

Thinking marketers know a damaged image is hard to repair. They also know one angry customer can undo the effects of ten happy customers, or a hundred customers who are merely satisfied.

There’s more to marketing, of course, but that’s the ‘CliffsNotes’ version.

Moving on to Russia (or as I call it, the Soviet Union) ...

It would be a marketer’s dream to have total control over all media in his or her market. And oh! What bliss! No lawsuits about false advertising. And millions of dulled eyes staring at screens, waiting ... just waiting ... for the next lie.

Vladimir Putin has all that. And more.

So what’s he doing with it?

He’s destroying his brand — Russia.

His European markets are drying up. His Russian subjects seem to be either peasants ignorant of the world beyond their patch or oligarchs indifferent to the world beyond themselves. His Chinese “friends” realize Russia is a minor customer for their goods, and a minor player on the world stage.

Young minds smart enough to know what Putin is doing are leaving Russia. Foreign companies are leaving Russia. (An aside: One wonders if some of those young minds and protestors will be welcomed to Ukraine?)

And for what?

Russia has plenty of oil, gas and other natural resources. It has abundant cropland, and a homogenous population (refugees from other countries aren’t exactly breaking down the doors to get into Russia). Russia has ports to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Black Sea. No nation challenges those ports, although the Black Sea ports require passage through some narrow and easily contested straits.

Today, nations which have been neutral for hundreds of years are lining up against Russia. Finland, Sweden — even Switzerland, for heaven’s sake.

Russia lacks only two things to be a successful participant in the world beyond its borders – truth and trust. It will take generations for the world outside Russia to trust the Russians, and that can only start to happen when the Russian people begin to speak the real truth rather than the big lies repeated so often that Russians accept them as, if not truth, then at least reality.

The Quote: “Anyone who has proclaimed violence his method inexorably must choose lying as his principle.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in “The Gulag Archipelago.”

Thom Boncher is a retired marketing communications manager, former Jordan City Council member and Jordan resident since 2003.

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