Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Make Marketing Sociable.

I just found this old paper by social network anthropologist Danah Boyd. I was particularly drawn to her thoughts on the need to make technology sociable since they echoed my thoughts that our collective goal is to create sociable products and services. The technology sector is just a subset of this so when reading the following extracts, try substituting your own product or service in place of the word technology.

"There are three ways to make technology work in the context of people:

#1: Make a technology, market the hell out of it and demand that it fit into people's lives. When this fails, logroll. In other words, bundle it with something that they need so that they're forced to use it. Personally, I think that this is pretty disgusting, although I recognize that it is the way that the majority of our industry works.

#2: Make a technology, throw it out to the public and see what catches on. Follow the people who use it. Understand them. Understand what they are doing and why and how the technology fits into their lives. Evolve to better meet the needs and desires of the people who love the technology.

#3: Understand a group of people and their needs and then develop a technology that comfortably embeds itself within the practices of those people. Make technology ubiquitous."

From my perspective, I believe a combination of her #2 and #3 is the ideal. Just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks pushes #2 a bit too close to the mass marketing of #1 for my liking. Have an affinity with the people you expect to be serving while being prepared to adapt to what reality throws at you - that is the mindset most likely to lead to success.

Danah continues,

"Users may do the darndest things, but they're only peculiar when you try to understand it in your framework. Reframe what they are doing in their framework....The trick then is to design from that perspective, to truly get it, not just be tolerant of it. When we ::groan:: about those darn users, we're missing the point. They're not interacting with technology to prove a point to us. They're interacting with technology because it fits into their framework of the world. Understanding that, really getting that... that is the key."

In other words, you exist to serve the customer.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Disruptive Cinema.

Writing about "casting where the fish are" reminded me that the P of place is one about which I talk little. This is probably because, at a macro level, it rarely varies except when a new paradigm like online comes along. Think about it. In general, we know where to go to get stuff.

But behind that lies a series of distribution hierarchies that are ripe for disruption. This is especially true for products with a short shelf-life such as movies. The separation of screen owners or exhibitors from producers (created via anti-monopoly law in the US) is a big problem, because exhibitors who make as much profit from their popcorn sales as their share of the box-office don't really care about anything but bums on seats, and this leads to conservatism and kowtowing to the majors. Not all that different from what goes on in other industries is it?

Similarly, distribution companies don't take risks with movies that they claim they don't know how to market and thus many independent movies barely get released in cinemas which is why you only chance across them in the DVD racks. Scenes Of A Sexual Nature is a movie that's attempting to break that cycle. The entrepreneurial financiers didn't like the attitude of potential distributors and reacted particularly badly to their assertion that "we'd like to work with you, but you'll not make any money."

They decided to go it alone and have hired 35 screens, thereby taking the up-front risk themselves in return for controlling their own marketing and, one hopes, sharing the greater proportion of revenues and retaining ancillary rights (for which exhibition is the primary marketing tool). It's archetypal disruption - bypass the established distribution taste-makers, speak directly to your potential audience (or, at least, some sneezers) via social networks and try to convert interest/"friends" into bums on seats.

To my mind, this is the type of innovation for which Mark Cuban appealed so dramatically and it's an approach that's already generating a lot of interest. If nothing else, when it comes to the sale of ancillary rights , the bidders will know that this is not just another independent movie and those negotiation conversations will be different than would otherwise have been the case.

I would hope that those potential cinema-goers who complain that their viewing needs are not being met by the existing model will take notice and seek to support this venture, but I'd also urge those of you in other industries to question whether a changed distribution policy would allow you a greater connection with your customers?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

User Democracy.

I often cite Jakob Nielsen's opinions on website usability and his recent piece clearly has many implications for marketers. He suggests that user participation more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don't contribute).
9% of users contribute from time to time.
1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions.

The obvious and crucial question is whether these rates are replicated in other markets and populations? But, in any case, I'm not sure I agree with his implicit assertion that the resultant unrepresentative sample of opinion is a bad thing.

As I've written before, I'm far from convinced that representative samples always yield great results. In doing so, I cited another of Nielsen's findings, by which he has shown that a tiny sample of people can identify 80% of the usability shortcomings on a website.

Is it, therefore, not credible to argue that an unrepresentative sample can nevertheless produce useful results? Could it be that passionate opinions are the most relevant? Might the masses' silence indicate that their concerns are either minimal or have already found expression?

The key requirement of marketers is to facilitate a users' conversation. However, I'm not sure we should beat ourselves up when we realise that in the majority of cases, you can lead a user to conversation but you can't make them speak.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Retroviral Marketing.

Emily's comment elsewhere led me to her site and this clever piece of marketing.

Tapping into already interested prospects like this is at the heart of all our marketing efforts. It seems to me that there must be a way that the web can automate this sort of reverse viral approach. It's similar to the Amazon recommendation ethos, but a little more subtle I think.

Regardless of that, we can all learn from the way this marketer has made his product remarkable: firstly by separating it from the mass of other used cars on the lot or featured in pages of ads and then by harvesting the power of personal recommendation.

As I have written before, casting where the fish are doesn't have to mean casting where everyone else does.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Network Effects.

As much as marketers like to talk knowingly about network effects and the interconnectedness of modern life, it is something else entirely to truly experience it. This time last week, when Guy Kawasaki linked to my old post Geek Marketing 101, I did just that.

Using my stats counter for the first time ever, I reeled in amazement to see my page inundated for hour after hour with more visitors than I apparently get in a day! The world wide web in action. Comments and compliments galore. Readers from as far afield as Ecuador, Bosnia, Tunisia and Indonesia. Real-life, as ever, is where the true insights are. It was remarkable to watch and I recommend it to everyone.

But where do I go from here? Yesterday at the Blog Business Summit, Jason Calacanis, senior Vice President at AOL and founder of showed me the way forward.

“Want to be an A-list blogger. Go to Techmeme. Look for the top three stories. Write about them every day. Go to the blogs of the other people who are writing about these stories and comment. Do this every day and attend every conference going. And you’ll be an A-lister. Write once every two weeks and wonder why you aren’t an A-lister?"

Hmmm, doesn't that imply that to be an A lister you have to pass over to the dark side and that the blogosphere is forever a geek phenomenon?

No matter, the top three TechMeme items today are here. Unsurprisingly they're technical issues about which I have no real expertise to comment intelligently. Oh well, back to obscurity!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Numbers Game.

From The Times last week:

"Of course, it is also possible to get overexcited about the internet. Penguin, the publisher, has a revenue-sharing agreement with Google, which allows it to profit from any advertising generated by its books on the search engine’s book service. This, of course, is dynamic, exciting stuff — a new revenue stream for book publishers and so on. Or maybe not. Last year Penguin’s share of the revenue amounted to $75. This year it may be $100, which, of course, would represent growth of 33.3 per cent."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Visual Impact.

The distinctive colours and typeface were unmistakeable. The van approaching me obviously belonged to eBay. But hang on a minute, eBay doesn't have an offline presence! Nor, it emerged, did they have this van.

Because, as it sped past, I saw the side was emblazoned not with eBay but with the name abbey. A clever piece of piggyback marketing, but one that was not fully thought through since there was no indication of what service abbey provides. They had grabbed my attention, yet sadly had failed to follow through with enough information to translate it into interest.

And that (to answer Sig's challenge) is, in my view, one of the things you have to understand about logoes. They don't make you remember a product or service, they remind you about something you already know - whether that be a company or perhaps just an association as this alarming report illustrates.

Moreover, there are many aspects of a logo that branding specialists would claim communicate key attributes whereas, in reality, we don't actually register them. Maybe it's just me, but despite years of seeing it, it was only recently that I had the speech marks within the Vodafone logo pointed out to me.

If you want more evidence, play this terrific game which I introduced to Seth Godin in my pre-blogging days and to which he added some interesting insights here.

Although the abbey example with which I started is clearly an exception, you can see that you generally recognise the names far more easily than the typography of the logoes. But, of course, the reason you recognise the name, as Sig rightly says, is because you've had a memorable experience with the product or service. Logoes do not maketh the sale.

[Having giving up on trying to convince a naming company client of mine to adapt the game as a fabulous piece of interactive marketing that by incorporating the logoes of their clients would show the effectiveness of naming, I am now quite happy for anyone else out there to feel free to come to an arrangement with me and, of course, Joey Katzen!]

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Finding myself in the dark, wet, industrial bowels of the defunct Battersea Power Station last week, I ultimately began to notice the Chinese video art. Most of it was beyond me and, lacking explanation, seemed wreathed in pretension as does so much video art. But I was very taken by one film. Cao Fei's "Whose Utopia?"

Indeed, could there be a more appropriate setting than a redundant UK power station for a film depicting the manufacture of various light bulbs in an Osram factory somewhere in China?

Some of the mechanical manufacturing processes were rendered strangely beautiful while the mind-numbing, eye-wearying banality of some of the ultra-repetitive manual tasks was resonant with implications. And then, as the piece moved into a more surreal phase, this slogan appeared,

"But To Whom Do You Beautifully Belong?"

If that doesn't encapsulate the goal of marketers, then I don't know what does. Our customers don't belong to us, we seek to belong to them and we succeed only as long as we continue to do so beautifully.

[I foolishly didn't take a camera, but these images will give you an idea of the scale of the place - a sign informed me bizarrely that the chimneys at 315 feet tall are higher than the Statue of Liberty!]

Monday, October 23, 2006

Why Would I Care?

I came across this link on Scoble's site. While it gives good advice to corporate podcasters, advice which is applicable to any marketing communication, my immediate reaction is why would I care?

Even if Starbucks had taken the advice, would I really want to listen to tales of satisfied customers? I suppose I can see a justification in terms of the often neglected aspect of internal marketing but what benefit would accrue to me the potential customer?

A better crafted podcast is all well and good, but if your audience isn't inclined to partake then your extra effort has been wasted. Just as you need remarkable products and services to cut through the abundance in which we live, you also need to apply marketing logic to your marketing efforts.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hyped Text Links

As Gia rightly points out typing "a href" is not a creative act.

But it certainly is an act that facilitates creativity as Tara's train encounter reminds us.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Rush Job?

A couple of weeks ago, Seth Godin recounted a tale of rushing round New York that has gnawed at my mind ever since.

My main musing has centred around the enormous marketing implications of this hurried-decision syndrome,

"most people buy most things in a state of urgency, not relaxation. We pay what we pay when we buy what we buy because right then, in that moment, it's not just important, it's vital."

If that's true - and it certainly is indicative of enough purchases to warrant consideration - then does it mean that marketers should focus on point of sale materials that grab the purchasing mind in those vital three seconds in the aisle? Or should they be building elective affinity ahead of time so that a Pavlovian short-circuiting of the hurried mind occurs in favour of their product?

It reinforces the importance of cognitive psychology to the marketer. As I've discussed before, there may be a considerable difference between predictive research indications and actual behaviours because a customer's brain activity differs between questionnaire-filling and making an actual purchase decision. So, it would seem logical to wonder whether the hurried mind is capable of recalling the preferences you've instilled in it when in a non-hurried state?

If not, then we should all be ensuring that the sales environment is as tranquil as possible.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Because Of.

Tuesday was National Blog Day which inevitably was a "nothing happening here" day for me. Why couldn't it have been yesterday? My activities then would, at least, have made me appear interesting for posterity.

Because of blogger friends, I got to see a forthcoming movie Scenes Of A Sexual Nature which is both terrific in itself, and seeking to disrupt the regular movie-business model. I shall be writing more about this later.

Because of an exhibition of modern Chinese video art, I got to see inside a London landmark. Everybody near London should do this because it makes the Tate Modern look like a shoebox and the art has its moments too.

Because of reading a Tom Peters connected blog over two years ago, I got to see what the readers of a blog that became a book look like. I also learned how a surprising number didn't know about the blog before the book.

Because of all this and a number of emails I received, I have a whole mass of new things to blog about.

Interconnectedness - you've gotta love it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Do Something For Your Customers.

Ann Michael highlights another successful practitioner giving real world marketing advice.

"Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. These two simple concepts—for and to—express it all."

Many businesses assume that if you do something to your customer, you're having an impact on them. In their mind, they probably think they're actually doing something for the customer, but doing something for your customer involves a true connection rather than ticking boxes. It's a connection which they will acknowledge either at the time or later on (probably when the competition provides them with the standard good enough version that previously didn't register).

Is your organisation hospitable?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ad Like No Other.

After all the teasers and making-of clips, you can now view the finished version here. It's hugely superior to its award-winning predecessor because it screams colour rather than San Francisco throughout and drives rather than meanders to a climax in best Pescian style.

Monolithic Brands.

Jim Lanzone CEO of attributes the success of YouTube etc (and by extension methinks the failure of etc) to the fact that users fail to link the big brands with new services. He continues,

"It's very difficult for a brand to mean more than one thing. When you get past two things you're really stretching it."

That seems to me to be a very push-marketing, product-centric view obsessed with delivering a message to your fawning acolytes. The reality of multifarious, individual customers is that they all have different worldviews and will infer different messages from your products/services and everything with which you surround them.

It is in fact inevitable that a brand will mean many things and it's your job to ensure that they're all outstanding things.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Restating The Obvious.

I don't know the truth of what happened in the Edelman/WalMart blogging debacle. Like everyone, I can hazard my own biased guesses, but that doesn't get us anywhere. However, it seems to me that certain fundamental truths have to be restated. All markets are conversations, so all marketing must adhere to conversational etiquette.

The fundamental tenets of that etiquette (and how they were flouted in this case) are as follows:

1) Clarity

All blogging should be transparent. Its authorship should be obvious and linked to any commercial interests concerned. Company sponsorship or support of a third-party blog should be explicitly stated on the front page.

2) Honesty

If you tout a code of conduct as some sort of self-promotional marketing marque, that code should involve punishments and you should suffer for your transgressions. If not, it and you are devalued.

3) Alacrity

When a problem emerges, people are speaking to you and it is basic conversational courtesy to at least acknowledge them swiftly. Don't stay silent while some laborious internal enquiry takes place.

4) Transparency

If you hire an executive to specialise in social networking then, regardless of the reality, it will ring untrue if they claim ignorance of a blog. It's tough, but every initiative in which you're involved must cross their desk.

Cock-up or conspiracy - the impact is the same and ignoring these tenets is what gets marketing a bad name.

Are You Cool?

Cool is something that jars and grabs your attention.

Cool is not invented out of nothing.

Cool is not acquired.

Cool has authenticity and doesn't try to follow trends.

Cool makes users passionate.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Elephant 2.0.

Whether you characterise economy 2.0 as being nodal rather than hierarchical, collaborative rather than competitive or giving rather than taking will all be fairly arcane if the business model doesn't work. The questions are well rehearsed but far from being answered.

Can the inherent tension between user-generated content and business-imposed advertising be overcome? What proof is there that web 2.0 eyeballs welcome the intrusion even of targetted advertising? Why do so many geeks decry advertising's effectiveness (rightly in my opinion) and yet assume that their revenues will derive from this source?

Now, another element that has been nagging the back of my mind, namely the sanctity of advertising spend, has found voice in an interesting post discussing the relative profitability of marketing 2.0. I'm still digesting the argument and the comments but this statement obviously found favour with me.

"Ceding control to consumers was the dominant theme of the Association of National Advertisers conference — but if consumers are in control of your brand, the best way to increase sales is not by advertising in the traditional sense, but by making better products and providing better service."

Synchronistically, I also found the New York Times taking up my question about Friendster's failure. Apparently, it was due to technological deficiencies. VCs and the executives they brought in weren't actually using the site. Their focus on land-grab, new territories and product extensions ignored the basic functional deficiencies and users clicked off.

Advertising assumptions. Community loyalty. New paradigms. They should all come with a profit warning.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

IT Matters?

There appears to be some debate about the role of IT in business.

It's something of a moot point in these fast-changing times, but the key phrase is sustainable competitive advantage. It is this which is the strategic goal of any business and one on which marketing has a central impact because it is essentially only achievable via lower cost or differentiation. The latter is sometimes seen as a product of marketing in its misunderstood sense, (i.e promotion/advertising) but it is also very much to do with the product itself and here I agree with the geeks that IT can be a source of sustainable competitive advantage. Ironically, however, it is dependent on exactly the type of patent protection over which many peer to peer inovations have ridden roughshod.

If you have unique IT processes or products that are protected by patent, then you have estabished definite barriers to entry for your potential competition. But this is not the product of IT per se, it's just IT as a product or facilitating infrastructure - customers use your product or service because of the efficiency of the IT involved. It is a defining product/service attribute.

But if it's not patent protected (and it was interesting to hear Nathan Myhrvold recently remind us that most Silicon Valley firms implicitly, if not explicitly, forbid their technologists from checking whether their work is infringing anyone's IP rights) then IT is just a vital business lubricant. If you dont have it in place, you may be at a competitive disadvantage but the converse does not apply.

Many geeks, as I have written before, mistrust marketing and I sometimes wonder if this lies behind the attempts to improve the status of IT. We do all the work but these huckstering marketing types misrepresent us. But the fact remains, marketing will always be crucial to business because it is the way you connect your product/service to your customers and ultimately it's all about the customers.

Rather than rail against marketing, IT people have to engage in some marketing of their own in order to demsytify what they do and highlight the significant contribution they make to success in tech and non-tech ventures.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Survey Says.

One in twenty people would be willing to have an RFID chip implant in their arm to facilitate shopping or so it was claimed this week.

In reality, I wonder how many of this 5 percent would actually do the deed when it became a possibility rather than a survey question? My take on this type of research response to a hypothetical scenario is that 5 percent of people don't believe it to be an idea that doesn't excite them.

That's a very different but less spinnable finding.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Grey Day.

Following on from yesterday's post, it seems that one thing that turns off female customers is grey clothing. Although touted as the new black this season, it appears that shoppers do not agree.

It's a salutary reminder that you cannot afford to assume that an individual reaction will necessarily translate into a collective reaction. Single pieces are, I'm sure, elegant and stylish, but a rack full of grey clothes inevitably focusses the customers' mind on their worldview of grey and all its associations.

It also strikes me as proof that tastes don't change that much over time because the carousel of hot seasonal colours that has spun round to grey this year also made that declaration in 1998/9 with the same results. Ironically, today's youth-oriented purchasers and colour specialists are too young to remember that previous debacle.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Why Did Friendster Fail?

Amid all the discussions of stratospheric social software and where their valuations are headed, it's interesting (but not surprising) to note the focus is on possibilities. Nothing wrong with that - we all need the vision thing - but it can easily become an unthinking frenzy of positivity.

As you would expect from this accentuator of the negative, I think it would be much more helpful for people to ask and answer the question "Why Did Friendster Fail?"

First mover advantage is not the land-grab panacea that some would have you believe and working out what turns customers off can provide great insights into what turns them on.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

They Just Don't Get It 2.

A few days ago, I became tangentially involved in a discussion of MySpace audience demographics stimulated by this Fred Wilson post. Now it's no surprise that online measurement data is questionable - in these relatively early days I guess that's inevitable, but it is crucial we realise that. It's not enough to take any set of figures at face value because if you don't truly understand what's going on, you don't get it and things like this happen.

Notwithstanding the inherent misunderstanding of the slow burn of viral campaigns and my assumption of a disparity between the demographics of the MySpace and back pain sufferer constituencies, I think this claim goes to the heart of it "We tried out quite a few different things on focus groups and found that people enjoyed the humour of the rock group." Focus group enjoyment and marketing effectiveness are very different things and, so it seems, are common sense and fiscal responsibility.

On the upside, they won't need to test for public reaction to this cutting-edge campaign.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Is It Safe?

"Use By" dates on supermarket products are an intriguing device.

Ostensibly, they add to the customers' belief that the store is looking after their safety but, in order to avoid lawsuits and/or complaints, the advice errs on the side of caution. This instils a conservatism in customers that, no doubt, leads to increased revenues as perfectly good food is thrown out and must be replaced.

Just as with Zara's rapid product turnover, the cleverest marketing is that which changes worldviews and behaviours without the customer feeling manipulated.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cause And Effect.

In accordance with the 9th rule of Blog Club, I'll address the company of the moment.

YouTube is a tech company built around superior video streaming innovations which it owns, but it's successful because of the content which it doesn't.

Quickie Marketing.

Walking past a local Indian takeaway restaurant, I noted that they've crowned the serving counter with a sloping facia on which is posted the entire menu.

So now there'll be no flipping through multi-page menus to find what you want; there'll be no squinting above or beyond the serving bay as happens in so many mall restaurants; and there'll be no forgetting what you've ordered between reading and speaking (a problem for alcohol-sodden clientele when faced with menus traditionally posted on the outside of the restaurant).

No. You'll stand at the counter and read the menu, as if at a lectern, in a well-lit environment directly facing your server. It can't have cost much to do, but it's user-friendly and no doubt speeds up through-flow. I've no idea if it's unique to this takeaway, but I will notice its absence in other restaurants. That simple differentiation is quickie marketing in action.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Is A Quickie Less Satisfying?

Two A-list bloggers suggest that a good blogpost takes time. So now I know why I'm so low on the totem pole!

The huge majority of my posts fall into two categories - those that are created as fast as I type (and then amend for typos) and those that I dash down and then fill with links and slight refinement later. These still come in at under 30 minutes. A literal handful took closer to the six hour limit because of length, running them by the fellow blogger who suggested them and a wish to make prescriptive descriptions. But size is not always an important delineater - my RSS guide took maybe 20 minutes.

Now of course, the longer you take to refine and redraft the better the end result can be, but it's no certainty. The small, quick thought can have just as great an impact. Similarly, creative inspiration is just as important and can put you into the flow state that we all love.

But, of course, I'm not really writing about blogposts here. I'm writing about doing rather than refining. About acting on emotion. About having a seemingly small idea and implementing it rather than spending hours and days creating an over-arching, super-refined marketing plan that implicitly puts all your eggs in one basket and leads to committees, procrastination and paralysis.

[Post duration: 7 minutes]

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Conversation Piece.

Now don't get me wrong, I signed up to the Cluetrain seven years ago and fully agree that markets are conversations, but I've noted a recent tendency for conversation to be lauded regardless of its nature. There's a moment at the very of this short video (from Hugh's Hallam Foe project) that crystallised the whole debate for me.

The cameraman - a relative newcomer to this blogging thing - complains that the discussion has become a rambling conversation and wants to steer it back to something else while a veteran blogger responds that when things become a conversation it gets interesting.

In my eyes, both are simultaneously right and wrong.

The democratisation of open conversation rightly threatens the sometimes dubious credentials and entrenched views of executives, politicians and media and opens up huge new opportunities. But, just because everyone has the right and now (to some extent) the forum in which to express an opinion, it doesn't mean that opinion has any validity or value and we should never forget that.

From a marketing perspective, you must, must, must encourage multiple conversations, but a vital new skill lies in mediating that conversation without influencing it. While it's conceivable that you might censor some valid input by doing this (though I doubt it), the benefit derived from being able to navigate through the noise must outweigh this.

Friday, October 06, 2006

They Just Don't Get It.

Seen on a TV show about the "greatest online phenomenon".

"If you want to be successful in the industry today, you have to spend a lot of time developing your profile on [insert social network here]"


"Use pictures and music"


"so that it's really interactive."

They Just Didn't Get It.

"Social networking is hot among the youth demographic, let's get involved."

"But social networking sites are getting some bad press, so we better control the conversations."

"It wasn't meant to be like this."

The 9th Rule Of Blog Club.

9th RULE: Everyone blogs about You Tube.

New members start here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Elective Affinities.

Having been assailed and appalled by reality TV "stars", my text today was going to focus on the fact that since Warhol's knowing maxim had been so devalued, there's a lot more to be gained from the philosophy of being famous for fifteen people both as a blogger and in business. It may not seem much but, given our increasing interconnectedness, if you're famous for the right fifteen people your message will be both very well heard and received.

And then I wondered about the origin of that phrase.

It turns out that "Famous For Fifteen People" pre-dates websites, let alone blogs. It was first uttered here way back in 1991 by Momus a Scottish artist/musician unknown to me. His subject was music but he was extremely prescient about digitisation and The Long Tail and in proposing the music industry should, could and would focus on "small, culty, fragmented audiences", he used an expression that stopped me dead.

Wikipedia tells me that in early 19th century chemistry, "elective affinities" was used to describe compounds that only interacted with each other under select circumstances and that Goethe adopted it as a metaphor for marriage. In 2006, it captures so much that is central to modern business - from the pre-eminence of the consumer through to social networks which are predicated upon affinity (definition: a natural attraction, liking, or feeling of kinship). It evokes images of conversation, trusted recommendation and self-actualisation.

Marketing 2.0 is all about the nurture, propagation and harvesting of elective affinities.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Making Marketing Ring True.

Daring Fireball is a hardcore geeky site that I've skimmed for a couple of years at the recommendation of a friendly technology expert. It's filled with stuff I don't begin to understand, but has also kept me abreast of foul-ups in software updates and has helped me out on many occasions.

It wasn't, however, somewhere that I expected to read an outstanding marketing critique which reminds us of some essential marketing truths about authenticity, positioning and the foolishness of branding. I urge you to read it.

But while John Gruber validly harangues some marketing influences at Adobe, he goes on to say

"This is why so many great companies fade away after their founding generation retires: the companies are taken over by “sales and marketing people."

and argues that

"Any great company must be run by people who both understand and love the products the company creates;a car company needs to be run by car people; a movie studio by movie people; and a software company by software people."

I can't agree.

As I've said before, anyone who calls themselves a sales and marketing person is inherently suspect in my book and will inevitably screw things up. Not because they're marketing people, but because they clearly don't understand marketing as well as John Gruber. I think he's fallen into the trap, no doubt based upon experience, of equating the marketing debacles with the inevitable outcome of a marketing department.

While in many cases marketing people have admittedly served the tech industries badly by not truly understanding the product, it is equally true to say that software and hardware people have performed equal disservices by not appreciating that their customers were not necessarily as technically proficient as themselves. Indeed, it was this observation that prompted me to write my Geek Marketing 101 post.

No, a software company does not have to be run exclusively by software people. It should however be populated by people who understand what the product can and can't do and the way its customers will interact with it. Just as in any industry, specific production expertise is not essential. Rather it is that rare ability to be a nuanced translator and conduit which truly allows you to make marketing ring true.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Web 2.0 Working Well.

In contrast to my opinion of podcasts yesterday, I am intrigued by two marketing developments on this side of the pond.

Firstly we have the leader of the opposition (i.e. the prospective Prime Minister) instituting his own weblog where he reports from his home and from his hotel suite with his musings on a speech he's just given. It's interesting and creditable to note that many of the viewers are insisting that he makes it more interactive. Unforgiveably, in my view, you have to register to make comments (thus ensuring that the user rather than the blogger does the work) and it's clearly a little gimmicky at the moment, but it certainly feels more current than other forms of political marketing.

Secondly, I read about a couple of advertising agencies setting up Second Life presences to undertake research of consumption patterns within the virtual world. Given my previously stated opinions on research and Second Life, I am more than a little sceptical about the post modernism of all this, but at least it's an attempt to learn what improves people's experiences rather than imposing new technology on consumers just because it's new.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Cutting Edge Communication?

So this is my problem with podcasts. I head over to look to see what Podtech is about and find this interesting title "Tips to make blogs read better." It promises the top five tips to increase blog visibility.

Now how long would it take me to read five tips? Let's say two to three minutes maximum. But a marketing podcast wants me to devote 14.47 minutes of my time (and total concentration) to this. That just doesn't make sense to me and not just because it suggested that a blog with few comments (like this one) is ignored by potential readers.

UPDATE: The inimitable Ze Frank makes similar points in video but much more funnily.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

RSS: Really Simply Stated - It's TIVO For Blogs.

This is my Sunday supplement to Kathy's Saturday bytes in which she highlighted a guide to RSS. I like it but don't think it does the whole job because, to my eyes, the "how to" is in the wrong order and gets a little bogged down in technical details about live feeds etc which is something a neophyte can learn about later. However, it is about time we collectively sorted out this RSS phobia, so here's my version. I welcome amendments. But be warned, if you get too anal you will be geek-slapped.

What is RSS?

It's TIVO for blogs.

What does RSS do?

It allows you to set up your own personalised webpage to which is delivered every post from every blog and news site you wish.

When you open that page, every entry from those blogs that you have not yet perused is waiting for your attention.

They will stay there indefinitely until you read or delete them.

How do I set up this personalised page?

You subscribe to an RSS Reader.

What is an RSS Reader?

It is an online service (usually free) which enables you to create the personalised webpage that will monitor your favourite blogs.

What do I do?

There are many RSS readers. These include MyYahoo, MyMSN, MyAOL, MyGoogle and Bloglines. Choose one (I use Bloglines), go to its home page, set up a free account and then you're ready. This will take minutes or maybe less.

[TIP: If you want to be super clever, then once you've signed up to a reader, locate the "subscribe to" page within that reader and bookmark it or better still place it in your browser tool bar. This is slightly more technical and definitely not essential but I mention it because it saves me time.]

How do I fill my personalised page?

You go to any blog of your choice and you "subscribe" to its RSS feed. This activates the connection between that blog and your personalised page. This will take seconds.

How do I "subscribe" to a blog's RSS feed?

There are essentially three ways.

1) On many blogs, you will see an array of symbols that correspond to RSS feeds. They should appear prominently if the blog is designed well - on my blog you will see them beneath my profile in the left hand column.

Locate the one that applies to your reader and click it. A new window opens. It is full of jargon - don't worry. All you have to do is to tick one of the boxes and then scroll down to click on the subscribe button.

What you have just done is choose the technical way in which the blog is delievered to your personalised page. For all sane people, life is too short to worry about which one you actually ticked.

2) If the blog does not feature a symbol corresponding to your reader, it will probably feature the orange square that you see on my blog. Click on this and you will go to a window that should feature a multitude of symbols and you can now locate the one you need and repeat the steps outlined in 1 above.

3) If you have been clever as suggested above, you are in total control of the process. Go to the blog of your choice and click the subscribe page via your tool bar or favourites. What you have just done is exactly as happens in version 1 above but you have not had to go looking for the subscribe symbol on the blog. Your computer is effectively imposing that button on any blog you visit.

Now what?

Now you can peruse the blogs at your leisure. Log in to your RSS reader account. Click on the "my feeds" page and there it is - your personalised compendium of blogs.

The appearance varies depending on your reader but essentially there will be a list in the left column of all the blogs you are tracking and a number which indicates how many articles or posts are being stored fom that blog. Click on the blog name and the right hand side of the window will be filled with the contents of those posts or perhaps a summary thereof.

You can skim or read these and decide if you want to click through to the blog itself to see the full version (readers tend to remove all formatting and images from their version of the blogpost) or to leave a comment.

Is there a time limit to my subscription?

No. If you don't have time to read a particular blog, you will notice that each time you return to your personalised webpage, the number next to it will have risen because new posts have been added to the blog. You choose when to read them.

There is a numerical limit to how many posts your page will store for each individual blog (for bloglines I believe it is 200), but then if you've not bothered with the last 200 posts of a blog, it is telling you something about your interest in that blog.

Anything else I should know?

Occassionally, you will discover a blog for which this process does not work. This will be because the writer of the blog has not bothered to establish an RSS feed. E mail them and direct them to a site such as feedburner where they will be able to do this for free and thereby make your life even easier than RSS already does.

A mammoth compendium of RSS readers appears here.

Is that all there is to it?

Essentially yes. Geeks just like to overcomplicate things for ego reasons.