December 06, 2001

Scriblings and Out-Loud Thoughts on Gonzo Marketing
(These are opinions held at the time and don't necessarily reflect my opinions of the present or future. But they usually do.)
(Sideways scriblings from margins, between paragraphs and squeezed between lines to be translated to Blog in the very near future).

“If the pitch is the epitome of broadcast, the story embodies the essential character of the Web. Stories, like conversations, don't have targets, fixed goals, Q2 objectives. They circumambulate their subjects. They explore. They don't have mission statements.”

Not sure I agree with this. Everyone has a mission, especially if you have passion. Everyone is subjective. To say we’re running around without aim is false. In the sense, though, that Q2 objectives and mission statements tend to be corporate goals, not human, I see the point he is trying to make.

“Because entry costs require high returns on investment, broadcast media rarely offer such emergent voices a hearing. However, the Internet reverses this trend, providing many low- cost vectors for small-scale publishing -- Usenet newsgroups, email lists, weblogs, web pages. Think of these as "micromedia" as opposed to mass media.”

This is the gist of the internet. This provides a marketplace to all voices. Low entry cost is the vital characteristic of the web.

P. 109-110
“I might care a lot if come company offered to hook me up with a bunch of interesting people who think sorta like I do, and could tell me stuff I wanted to know. Or even better, people good at telling stories, sharing experiences, insights, new perspectives. There are many places where that sort of exchange is happening on the net. But most of them are zines or email lists, or personal sites created by talented turned-on individuals.”

“Very few companies offer anything even remotely close …. Maybe I’m blind I just don’t see people hanging out at corporate web-sites.”

Companies need to gel human stories …. That come from actually grappled with the class of problems the product or service purports to solve. In other words, companies need to tell stories based on genuine understanding, not purposeful misdirection. However to tell such human stories, companies need human beings.”

Do/will stories capture everyone? I think there is a segment of the population who is already engaged or could easily be engaged in Locke’s storytelling. But how true is it that “micromarkets” consist solely of people who have “unique” interests? I think most people are still affected by Mass communication and most interests are mainstream. Sports, Beer, Fashion, Soda, Gardening. Who will the audience be of this storytelling? Who will have the time to listen?

Most people have been trained to operate efficiently (and they’re happy doing so … they haven’t been taught to look for more than two answers, Find my flight. What’s that price. What product is the best value. A story can build brand allegiance, that’s for sure, if it strikes the right chord. But in the business of commodities, who’s gonna take time to listen to stories or take the time to develop new relationships with other people representing those brands, even if they are genuine?

I think we’ll see a 80/20 type rule, but it will be more like 97/3. 97% of what we’ll consume will be commodity and totally unaffected by story, while the other 3% will be. The question is, is this cost-effective for businesses? And, what percentage of businesses’ customers will actually take interests in their stories/communication.

So …. 2 questions: What percentage of products purchased by a typical person be affected by Locke’s style of communication? And, what percentage of products sold (or customer base) by a typical person will be as the result of Locke’s style of communication?

Also, it’s important not to look at this as a brand new style of strategy, entirely (accept for being genuine and customer-focused in all messaging); however, we should look at it as a valuable new tactic.

I think the advertising discipline of account planning plays a very valuable role in trying to achieve what Locke wants to achieve through marketing and advertising. Account planners have their ear to the ground, they talk with their customers, they do, yes, market research, but not of the kind Locke speaks of in the group. They go beyond quantitative analysis, and sterile focus groups to examine a customer base in their true setting and what they want. An account planner’s job is to make sure advertising works for the customer. Because if it works for the customer it also works for the client.

Baltimore agency Carton Donofrio’s use of cultural anthropologist and their techniques help a company communicate most effectively to people by looking at key events in their (potential) customer’s buying process.

IDEA: paper entitled, “A Conversation between Christopher Locke and Jonathan Steele.” Same prognosis … different prescription.

P. 113
“Collaborative filtering works bottom up by feeling out the edges of emergent micromarkets based on personal tastes and interests – in effect, defining potential online communities. This is a powerful capability, much better suited to a networked medium than the top-down demographic slicing and dicing typical of broadcast. Such techniques could enable companies to stop marketing to and marketing at. Instead, personalization could be used to get genuinely personal, connecting members of these emergent micromarkets to each other. DO that, and something different in kind results, People start talking, having conversations, telling stories” ….

Now we’re talking! Imagine if every company did what amazon did with collaborative filtering. Conversations at Ford’s web site, conversations at Home Depot’s web site. What’s so great about Amazon is that they’ve come up with multiple ways for visitors to share their voice. Reviews is the first, but that takes a lot of effort, and you better sound good. That can be pressure. But it can also be a valuable tool for shoppers. Also, think about their lists. I have two lists. People who pull up Cluetrain are showed my list, which also includes Catcher in the Rye and Truth, Lies and Advertising.

Take the commerce away from Amazon and we’ve got a whole new breed of people. People go there, and it’s a store. Imagine the possibilities in a non-commerce environment (albeit, Amazon has created a non-commerce atmosphere which is why it’s so good a commerce) (note to reader, Locke ends up proving this wrong, like he did so many times) Counterthought: but then how does this site become a successful business without commerce? I don’t think you can create the conversations on Amazon in an atmosphere where contributors know all that’s important is that their being counted as page views for advertising revenue. Maybe, ironically, business sites are the crux of the Internet. Because they don’t need to depend on advertising revenue, they can use their own revenue streams from products and services to maintain effective web sites. Looks like a win-win to me!
I’m starting to think I had it slightly wrong up top … conversations start by customers. Companies do the listening, and engage in conversations. From Gonzo quoting Cluetrain:

“To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities. But first, they must belong to a community. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market. Human communities are based on discourse -- one human speech about human concerns. The community of discourse is the market. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.”

And they better start opening their ears, and start listening.

P. 120 – “As networking replaces broadcasting, communication must become richer and more interesting – Not just louder and more insistent.” – Link to story about Fox using background images at World Series.

IDEA: Blog: Marketing Hall of Shame & Fame

A Vision: At the start of micromarket conversations the use of broadcast vehicles to speak more intimately with their audience. Instead of targeting the 18-24 year olds with HH incomes of $70K or greater, a company can target a micromarket by carefully listening to / being a part of their conversations. So now, a radio commercial from a hiking boot manufacturer can target avid rock climbers who listen to Radiohead and NPR, not because that is the micro market but because that is the conversation the micromarket is having. It shows that audience that company Z is listening and they’re adding to the conversation via radio. How's that for branding. How’s that for market research.

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