No One Cares, You Are Doing It Wrong, And That Is Awesome

August 7, 2008 at 6:27 am | Posted in Advertising, Blogging, Boomers, Business, Communication, Generation X, Generations, Leadership, Marketing, Net gens, Online marketing, Public Relations, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments
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Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr

Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr

Marketers are confused these days. The things that have worked for decades aren’t working anymore. Can you imagine if you worked for 30 years in your given vocation and then, almost over night, all the rules changed?

In truth, marketing is only now becoming what it truly should have been – a conversation. Less lies, less spin. Marketers have been shoveling marshmallow fluff down the mouths of Americans and telling them it’s broccoli. And suddenly, as quick as you can confuse metaphors, we find that the emperor has no clothes.

I admit I’ve been frustrated with the old-school marketers. “What is with these guys, and why can’t they get it together?” But that’s not fair. Their whole world has shifted beneath them. I came to a better understanding watching a recent Robert Scoble interview with IBM engineer Mike Moran. (I highly encourage you to check it out: Robert Scoble’s interview with Mike Moran. It’s only 12 minutes long and well worth your time.)

Moran gives a cogent explanation of why marketers are having such a difficult time in the new web 2.0 environment. Here is a small sample:

“The change that’s really happening is you have to learn how to attract people to your message rather than pushing it at them. You have to figure out how you’re going to listen when they talk back. And you also have to watch what they do. Those three things are really critical because once you do them, you have to figure out how to respond.

Those three things are really critical because once you do them, you have to figure out how to respond. When I say ‘Do it wrong quickly,’ it’s not you trying to do it wrong, it’s that you kind of admit that what you’re doing is probably wrong because it usually is. And then you have to look back at the feedback from your target market to see how far off it is so that you know what to do next. And that’s really a tough change for a lot of marketers.

That seems really simple, but think of it: a whole industry has changed in a matter of what, less than a decade? That is pretty outstanding. It’s going from monologue to dialogue, from lecture to conversation, from directing to caring, from crossed fingers to metrics.

Likewise, David Meerman Scott had this to say a couple of weeks ago at Podcamp Boston 3 on an edition of the Marketing Over Coffee podcast:

You truly have to think differently than you ever have before, if you’ve been a marketer or PR person throughout your whole career. So many people have an idea of what marketing and public relations is. Marketing is typically advertising and you interrupt people and you coerce them to do something. And PR is you convince a handful of journalists to talk about your stuff.

Everything we’re talking about here [at Podcamp Boston 3] is about creating something interesting that doesn’t talk about your product and service – no one cares about your product and service – but gets an idea across.”

All of this then reminded me of an excellent post by Josh Klein. (You really ought to subscribe to his blog. Seriously.) He was speaking about roughly the same topic, with a special focus on television. And Josh nails it when he talks about how things have changed with the internet.

“The internet wasn’t built for businesses, it was built to share information, first for the military and later for academics. Business has grown out of this original purpose, but it wasn’t the intention…

The web is not a passive medium. It’s built for engagement.

Why do companies insist on putting up brochureware websites, then wonder why nobody is visiting? Who gave them the right to take up valuable cognitive space without providing anything of value? This brings us back to the line that got axed from my presentation.

‘Nobody cares about you.'”

Do you see how these three quotes all fit together into a meme? Moran says everything has changed and failure is good. Scott says you must create instead of interrupt. And Klein says this medium is built for engagement and, to engage, you must focus on the desires of the customer (not yourself or your company).

No one cares about your product, you’re doing it wrong, and that is awesome.

No wonder this scares the pants off the old-school marketers – I don’t blame them! Everything went topsy-turvy all of a sudden. A type of newspeak has become the norm (i.e. sell by not selling, convince by entertaining, fail to succeed).

Researching all of this has made me a little more understanding; it has made the hand-holding necessary in our industry a little more tolerable. I encourage you – whatever your age or experience – to consider the great shift in marketing when you deal with the old-school folks.

Do you think I’m correct or am I totally off base? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.


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  1. YES! You really nailed this.

    Thanks for putting my comments in the same landscape as Mike and David … I think I know about 1/1000th of what they know 🙂

    It’s interesting that you mention your sympathy for the world-rocking of traditional marketers. As someone who had the opportunity to spend a lot of time around computers and then the internet as a young person, and then spent time as a hands-on developer, I often forget how different and new these things are. It’s an interesting challenge to get someone with 25+ years of experience in the traditional world on the same page about digital (or “tradigital”).

    The times I’ve sat down to brief some of our traditionally savvy folks on what’s new in digital, I always — EVERY time — have to stumble backwards from my intended discussion and cover terms that I took for granted.

    You can’t take these terms for granted… the very basics. They’re just TOO DAMN NEW!

    And of course, there is SO much to learn from these traditional folks. They may not “get it” in terms of how things are changing, but all of those lessons about measuring and iterating … I think that really all comes from the direct marketing gurus who perfected the US postal system as a business tool 🙂

  2. Yes! The last year I have been hitting my head against the wall because I knew traditional marketing was not working. I knew the internet was where it was at, but that was where my knowlege ended. I’m not that old, but definitely “old school”. Yes Josh, people like me need these basics. Thanks so much for talking about this obvious subject!!

  3. This is a concise, lucid treatise on the Yang of this shifting marketing paradigm.

    Most people are still “Yinging.” Wondering why gravity is pulling them the other way when it’s them hanging from the ceiling as they resist the current trend to listen, communicate, connect and as illustrated here, admit they might be wrong.

    As a proponent of these trends and a brand/marketiing business owner slash serf, I have now begun to call myself a marketing therapist. Healing and eliminating fear are my new archetypes. Bringing companies back to their original dogmas is my mantra.

    If we’re ever going to find fluidity again in the marketplace, authenticity must play a role in rediscovering ourselves in the quest to offer real solutions and not just make and sell overblown and bloated commodities.

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