Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bloglines - Missing the point

Bloglines user PeterDawson ( has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

quoateable quote !! ")-

"Companies with pure hearts will trump companies with money in the end. I'm a hippie 2.0. I have eternal faith in karma. You will never convince me otherwise"

::HorsePigCow:: marketing uncommon
...helping you find a cure for 'viral'...

Missing the point

By miss rogue

A couple of months back, someone asked me why I'm such an extremist. Surely, everything traditional marketing can't be bad. Why not be a big more moderate.

I replied, I'm an extremist because someone has to swing the pendulum over. Here is a diagram to illustrate what I mean:

You see, if I just sat on the fence, meeting halfway, wouldn't mean much. Because I'm extreme, meeting halfway means that there is a major shift on both sides. Of course, I wouldn't mind if the pendulum swung all of the way over...'cause it's the happy side for communities...but hey.

I am not really an unreasonable person. I'm actually very much a fan of finding the 'right' situation for clients. That is why the whole debate on viral is really quite silly in the end (including my involvement in it).

There are a couple of things that I have learnt in my career that are not absolutes - but are good ideas to absorb:
  1. No amount of money, pressure, cleverness, 'viralness', advertising, MySpace pandering, p.r., community building, or 'story' telling, etc. can save a crappy product. People don't give a flying snake. (for JP)

    I have gone into many clients and employers to find them 'chomping at the bit' to grow the buzz and get adoption while their products are buggy, slow, crashy, broken, etc. Why would you want to spread something that is going to leave a bad impression? All of a sudden, word of mouth becomes extremely damaging. Why not gather a group of focused and understanding early adopters who are willing to work with you to improve what you are building, THEN when it is kickass, unleash it and put a bit of pressure on.

  2. No matter how 'cool' you are, someone else is probably 'cooler'. And if you are the 'coolest', you probably won't be that for long.

    In other words, enjoy your 'clear blue ocean' because in a capitalist mindset, competition isn't far behind. And they are often younger, brighter, more agile and hungrier than you. Especially after you've been the reigning 'King of the Castle' for a while. So, how do you combat that? Well, you may have a better advantage when people love you (instead of just thinking you are 'cool'). That's where strong communities mean longevity comes into play.

  3. Quite often, that thing that you thought was the 'killer app' turns out to be nothing and that side project that you dismissed because you didn't think it had a broad appeal takes off like wildfire.

    Maybe it isn't monetizable, or you don't think there is a 'market' for it - but you've been throwing all of this energy and money and time behind the promotion of something you just can't figure out why it doesn't take off and all of a sudden, you notice that this feature or this side project has become super popular. Don't fight it. I've seen so many companies kill it because they use that popularity to try and steer people back towards the 'main' project or, even worse, they integrate it into the main project. Watch, observe...water it, garden it...understand why is happening.

  4. You don't find or create community. Community happens...well...sometimes.

    I've walked into countless projects where there was some sort of marketing plan laid out early in the game. 'The Target Market is A, B and C' - which usually means they've covered the entire gamut of possible people on the planet except for who is actually using their product. The issue is that these companies continue to go after these 'Target Markets' - trying to build community where nobody is interested, whilst alienating and/or ignoring the actual community that is building a long term detriment.

    It's fine to guess at who may find your product useful, but don't throw your energy behind that group until you see it actually manifesting. I've always believed in a much more organic way of researching these things. Let's put it out there and be part of that community...watching who gathers, understanding the real appeal and building the future of the product in that direction. I don't mean to do this to everyone else's exclusion, but seeding and building in specific directions is crucial to community growth.

  5. Being vulnerable is often your best defense/offense.

    Open source is the most vulnerable thing I know. Code that is open, free, available, transparent, etc. Anyone can and will come along and scoop it up and make it their own and make money off of it, etc. There are all sorts of jerks around the world who burn Firefox onto a CD, package it up and sell it for $29.95 to people who don't know that it is free for download online. They laugh all the way to the bank. But not as much as Firefox does. What was it? $72 million last year? I doubt that CD burner dude makes enough to replace a full time salary. S/he certainly couldn't get into major retailers - Firefox has built a strong reputation. A name. A community of people, gathered to protect it. That's not the only example.

    Making oneself publicly vulnerable is scary. Putting yourself 'out there', offering up source code, telling your 'secrets', involving your community (which could include...your enemies!) - yikes. There is something to be said for surprise and delight - which is a whole other story, but my point is that community is built on trust and someone who puts themselves out there honestly has a leg up when it comes to community.

  6. If you aren't Hugh Macleod, Guy Kawasaki or Seth Godin, you probably couldn't get away with Stormhoek, Film Loop or Squidoo.

    In fact, they have a tough time getting away with them. Their own 'brands' are worth way more and the minute they step back, they will still be Hugh, Guy and Seth (marketing superheroes), but Stormhoek will be just another bottle of wine, Film Loop will, and Squidoo will be just another abandoned social network.

    Either way, I respect all three of them a great deal more than I've expressed here, but the point here is that none of them could get away with what they have if they were, say, me.

  7. Any agency or person who says they are a viral marketing expert is full of it. And this is damaging to the entire industry.

    So many agencies win business because they go in and pitch bull about being able to create brilliant campaigns that will make the world fall in love with a company's brand. And so many companies end up disappointed in the results. Which results in a general distrust of marketing. Which nobody seems to learn from.

    We get oodles of phonecalls and emails from companies that ask whether we can build a viral campaign that will drive 100,000 people to their website. I always answer no. Even if we think we may be able to, based on them having an amazing product and our connection to strong communities that would like their product. They've completely missed the point. But the problem is...they just talked to 3 other agencies that said they could. Unironically. It makes me want to cry. I've watched perfectly great products tank because of this attitude.

  8. Companies with pure hearts will trump companies with money in the end.

    I'm a hippie 2.0. I have eternal faith in karma. You will never convince me otherwise.

  9. When it comes to forumulas and absolutes and buzzwords and case studies and lists of 10 things to do (heh), marketers are missing the point.

    Relationships take time. They take trust. They take real connection. Sometimes you can mass produce some sort of connection, like JetBlue does with the 'experience' it creates for passengers - from the language on the screens to the blue chips it serves to the way it has removed class distinctions from the seating - and in the end, they have a business and want my money and if I asked them to help me move, they would laugh at me. I think. But then again, a PlanePurple may come along tomorrow that gives me the same level of service and I'll probably switch without thought (or I may just pick the cheapest flight - commoditizing the whole damned process).

    And community building on a truly personal level is not scalable, so all of you traditional marketers and advertisers can continue to buy up your billboards and tv ads, etc., because in your world, numbers numbers matter. I've done the numbers game. There is nothing satisfying in it for me. I like looking at the world in a non-zero-sum way (thanks Kevin!) and hope for a time when the world flattens (not in a Thomas Friedman sense, but in a 'we all get a nice piece of the pie we worked for', which is, I suppose, the Chris Anderson sense).

  10. The bar is set excrutiatingly low.

    A little kindness goes a long way in a world filled with unfriendly and disempowering consumer experiences. I spend so much energy feeling ripped off that when a company does the smallest thing to show me they give a shit about me, I throw my whole being into their promotion. I'm not the only one.

    Egad, we need something to give. And I know my ideas are extreme, but they come from a real place of wanting to continue to hold onto my world filled with good, real people who give a snake about others. And, no, I won't just get real. If it doesn't exist right now, I want to dedicate my life to making it exist. I don't care what you call it or how it happens.
Damn. Another list of 10. See, I'm not altogether unreasonable. ;)

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