At the edges of the Law is the notion of “Victor’s Justice,” that the victor in a war applies different rules to the behavior of his enemy than to himself. In the famous Nuremberg trials, the Allies exempted certain aspects of the bombing of civilians from being designated “War Crimes” because they themselves had indulged in this while prosecuting the War. Similarly on the other side of the Globe, in the Tokyo Tribunal, the dissenting judge Radhabinod Pal accused the Allies of applying Victor’s Justice by retroactively declaring certain activities of the Japanese Accused to be illegal.
Related to this is “Vae Victis” (To the Vanquished One, Woe), that the loser must face severe consequences including the post-facto abrogation of treaties and other agreements by the Victor.
Stripped of complex garb, these concepts are known well to people in the world of Business. In this world, a common situation is analogous to the dispensation after a war: the winner in a battle for market share gets to impose its rules on the less fortunate and the loser has to face dreaded consequences including bankruptcy.
But in matters of perception, Victor’s Justice plays out in an equally fundamental way. In Marketing, we see it all the time.
When a company does well in the market and makes a lot of money, we tend to think of its Marketing as high-quality; when a company loses in the economic game, we tend to think of its Marketing as poor. At the time, however, the Marketing artifacts are built, we aren’t able to make the same sort of definitive judgments because we think of good Marketing as that which has led to success, while success is determined after a period of time has elapsed. In other words, we have no pure way of judging Marketing as we might, for instance, be able to find a poem beautiful even before it has found success by way of publication or wide-dissemination.
We do this because we believe in Victor’s Justice despite its patent unfairness and the obvious tautological flaw- success implies successful marketing because successful marketing leads to success.
We apply our rules ex post facto and never form a corpus of “truth” to which we stick. That is why Marketers are themselves lambasted- because we also shift our ground.
When will we have the courage to stand up for the defeated, to be able to declare a piece of marketing that has not led to commercial success still a great piece of marketing?