Yes sometimes I think marketing to the undead is the only thing left. Every niche has been upturned a thousand times. We really need to focus on the new zombie segment. Zombies don’t drive cars, eat at restaurants or travel much. They are hell on shoes from all that stumbling around. Their clothes are in a constant state of disrepair. That is it. We create a twofer – buy any Zombie suit and shoes are FREE.
What started this riff was stumbling on a marketing blog that used all the right words understanding none of them. They praised Malcolm Gladwell without understand a maven from a connector and they blogged about the Citizen Marketer book Tour coming to Boston (must be old but sorry I missed that) and other highly topical marketing riffs. Their blog post talked the Zombie Marketing talk.
Walking the Zombie Marketing Walk
Marketers are like lemmings. We tend to cluster together playing a fatal game of follow the leader right over a cliff. One of my most important marketing lessons over the past thirty years is moving away from a herd. Wisdom of crowds is good. Crowd suicide is not so good. You know a trend has tipped when even the cheap seats know about it.
We live in such marketing tumult, such chaotic change, that it is seductive to ape philosophy. Trends are oscillating very fast. Periods between waves are short. Each new idea wave is met with a ready group of surfers (some Zombies some not). Some ideas such as Godin’s permission, Gladwell’s tipping and the Heath brothers’ stickiness sprout legs and change how we think about marketing. Others, and I will spare the three examples that came to mind, fade quietly into the Zombie night.
Zombie marketing is espousing popular memes without really understanding their meaning. Every wave comes after and before. After previous waves and before some new startling understanding waiting to change or influence our minds once again. Zombies stumble from idea to idea dancing through the complex labyrinth marketing has become. These wanderers walk that Zombie walk hands outstretched, knees unbending and vacant eyes searching the horizon.
Marketing Zombie Test
Ask any suspected marketing Zombie what they are reading NOW. No matter what they tell you ask them why they are reading that particular book. Zombies read books because other Zombies tell them too. Non-Zombies read books because they are curious. I recommend books all the time. Most of my friends ignore me because they are NOT Zombies.
Never Kill A Marketing Zombie
Hey, the world needs Zombies too. Marketing Zombies are doing the right things for the wrong reasons. This is a typical Zombie crime. Zombies rarely do the wrong things for t he wrong reasons since that would make them EVIL MARKETING ZOMBIES (OR EMZ). EMZs are rare. I met one in meeting years ago. The particular EMZ used to work at the Museum of Modern Art. Every time he mentioned MoMA, and it was about every other sentence, he called it, “THE MOMA” as if his status was somehow inflated by working at THE MOMA’s store. Hey baby, retail is retail and he was an EMZ.
Confronting Marketing Zombies is not recommend as they may turn into EMZs. Better to smile and recommend a new book. If you recommend a book to a marketing Zombie AND they write it down or you see them with it soon after your conversation then your initial judgment was too harsh – your assailant is probably not a Marketing Zombie. On the other hand if you recommend a new book and they fain interest my advice is to keep your fire, guns and garlic at the ready.
Marketing Zombies Never Catch Up
Don't worry about Marketing Zombies. They never catch up. A Zombie's brain is really only concerned with acquisition. Understanding and connecting are not typical zombie skills. In an infinite inventory world where all ideas can be instantly known knowing OF an idea is much less important than understanding how an idea effects people, the world, your products and brands. Zombies leave synergy to their living breathing marketing counter parts.
If you know good Marketing Zombie repellent please share in comments.
Marketing Zombie: Volvo
Marketing Zombie: Breyers
Marketing Zombie Killer: BMW
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
I often write in sequence. Read my first Google Changes Everything riff to understand where I started. Next Google Changes everything will be on Planes, Trains and Automobiles. My second Google Changes Everything article is below.
General Motors and Hollywood
General Motors learned the hard way they are in the information business at least as much as in sculpted steel. Hollywood seems more with it than General Motors, but only by a little. Car companies allowed others to colonize our most powerful emergent system – Google – much to their detriment. The big three automakers wouldn’t know or recognize an emergent system if it bit them on their rear bumpers. They are top down command and control affairs. Car companies lost their touch because of middleman dealer networks.
Hollywood is in better shape. There is no “dealer network” between Hollywood and their customers, or not one that exerts so much control that going down a wrong road is easy (wrong road like hanging on to SUV’s way too long due to an unsustainable per vehicle profit margins). Hollywood’s first customers are theaters. Theater owners are kept in check by low operating margins, most theaters make more from popcorn than playing movies, and the inability to create a distribution monopoly. Theater owners aren’t half as powerful as car dealers. Hollywood still controls marketing and distribution.
Or does it? Two examples make me think Hollywood is subject to web disintermediation too: Snakes on a Plane and Dropping Cable.
Snakes on a Plane (SOAP)
Before Snakes arrived in theaters word of the film’s story was leaked. Millions visited the official Snakes web site. Snakes producers weren’t dummies, they used their site to include a growing cult following. Think how different this marketing is than any marketing ever done before. The process of creation becomes the first product sold, in this case, to an eager audience:
Marketing Snakes on a Plane
- An audience eager enough to make script recommendations.
- An audience eager enough to blog about the film before seeing the film.
- An audience eager enough to tell friends and create a word-of-mouth frenzy before anyone saw a single frame.
Snakes understood part of this truth. They decided to feed the frenzy. He who lives by the Google frenzy can also die by the same sword as the producers of Snakes discovered. The film opened strong but couldn’t maintain momentum. The film’s viral idea couldn’t match its poor execution without Industrial Light and Magic and many more millions in special effects.
A friend, Beth, dropped her almost two hundred dollar cable bill recently. “I don’t miss shows I really like,” she explained to me. My friend programs her life. Beth downloads favorite shows and watches them on her schedule. “I’m not missing anything,” she further told me over lunch recently, “and it is easier to keep up with my favorite episodic stuff like Lost and 24.” Beth oldest son is looking at colleges. She works in IT and has zero free time. There are always five demands for every hour. Sound familiar?
Is there any greater demonstration of our “Do-It-Yourself” times than becoming your own television programmer? An important way Beth creates personal space and equilibrium using technical skills and easily available (and increasingly free) tools to organize, filter and structure her life and world. Every marketer in the room including those from Hollywood should understand what DIY culture + magical tools means to them:
- Access to people, getting your message to potential consumers, is largely out of your control.
- Word-of-mouth is the only marketing that will reach people like Beth.
- Word-of-mouth themes may be amplified by traditional channels, but no WOM no product, no sales.
- All WOM starts with the product itself.
- Only unique products generate WOM.
- Uniqueness as Snakes proved is not enough, substance sustains WOM campaigns.
The World Is Flat, Known And Infinite
There was a time when people believed you could sail over the edge of the world. You reached a point, the point of no return, and your ship (the point was always out in the ocean somewhere) would sail into nothingness. Google, and I mean big G Google where the search engine is stand in for other similar tools such as blogging, wikis and social networks, is flattening our world.
At the turn of the century how could people in the USA know about the world? We lived inside of a significant delay. News was like light from distant stars. By the time we heard or read about an event it was well over. The world was tribal, slow and secretive. Google changes everything.
You could argue television started the trend. Television’s fatal flaw, the reason it couldn’t change everything, is its one way communication technology. Revolutions require participation. Unilateral conversation is another form of a top down command and control system. All top down systems are limited. Adapting any top down technology tops out at some point. Yes everyone has a television, but when is the last time you cared about anything on it? Unilateral top down approaches have little room or care for anyone from the receiving end to change either the means of production or its distribution. It is a version of Henry Ford’s famous line about his Model T, “you can have any color you want as long as it is black.”
Google changes everything because it shape shifts filling whatever container you, the consumer, put it into. Google + the right web site and you can do anything:
- Google + Cars.com = Buy a Car.
- Google + Movie Theaters = See A Movie
- Google + B2B web sites = Start A Business
- Google + Electronics sites = Film A Movie
- Google + YouTube = Screen A Movie
- Google + Facebook = Marketing A Movie (or anything else)
You can see how Google alters our sense of control. Would the dam have broken without such activist tools? Would consumers have finally revolted at marketing as usual? The point is moot because Google et al. are flattening our world while simultaneously giving us equal and transparent access to it. This genie will not go back in the bottle. Hollywood seems more ready than some to adapt to the new world. There are still problems such as:
- Snakes demonstrated a Snidely Whiplash-like tendency. Hollywood tried to cherry pick new tools to create benefit not realizing those same tools can also be used to easily apply wisdom of crowds thinking. If the movie sucks, no amount of Google-era marketing will save it. In fact, Google-era marketing insures a bad movie’s early path to DVD and obscurity.
- Hollywood’s processes are not transparent. The age of the smoke filled room and studio control may have been replaced by smoothies and Palates, but Hollywood remains a closed book (for the most part). Top down command and control systems die hard. Hollywood is having as much trouble killing theirs other businesses (though not nearly as much trouble as Detroit).
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Intelligent Offer From CoreMetrics
Intelligent Offer is an e-commerce customization platform created by CoreMetrics of San Mateo California. CoreMetrics' core product suite is dedicated to site analytics. Competitors include Orem Utah based Omniture and Google Analytics. We've been working with CoreMetrics for several years. I'm working on a white paper about Intelligent Offer, CoreMetrics' cross sale and up sale software soon.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
“Google changes everything,” I told a colleague in an email today. Back in the day, I explained, marketing was sequential, controlled and predictable. Create a new product such as Kudos, a new chocolate granola M&M/Mars launched when I worked in the National Office, and sequentially move through a series of big M Marketing activities:
Create a trial size display.
Use first line sales troops (boots on the ground) to sell displays to every grocery, drug and discount store willing to put them out.
Drop a FSI (free standing insert) in the Sunday paper
Create ten or twenty million dollars worth of television ads
Sit back and count your money
Google Changes Everything: Marketing’s Space/Time
M&M/Mars wanted to beat Hershey senseless. It was a duel in the sun. When I worked at M&M’s we were in a steal cage death match. We would hit them with a chair. They would hit us with a fist. Space was linear with two states – win (gain a half a point of market share) or lose (lose a point). It was possible to see the entire field (Hershey, Nestle and everyone else). Life was simple. Time was linear and slow. We fought over SPACE not hearts and minds.
Then Google was born and we had all had enough. After years of mind numbing ads and couch potatoes passivity we wanted to PLAY, to be involved. You battle for store shelf space with advertising. Google understood our collective desire for involvement. They changed advertising in a subtle but VERY important way. Google created the perception of “pull” advertising. Push ads are the old way. When you see the Old Spice ad at Christmas they are trying to push mediocre cologne into your dad’s stocking. You will see Old Spice ads two times a year (Christmas and Father’s Day). Soon you won’t see Old Spice at all because the cost of climbing the hill will far exceed benefits from the climb.
Google understood our need for involvement in our lives. We wanted to escape from people pushing stupid messages we didn’t care about at us from morning until night. We just weren’t listening anymore. Increasingly we are unreachable too. Think of your own habits. How many books do you read now? How many magazines? How much television do you watch? If you are like most you spend more time online and less time doing anything else. Google understood this.
Our online lives create the illusion of active control. Enter Google with their “search engine”. Words are so important. If Google were called “sneaky online advertising platform” no one would use it. Search engine, on the other hand, sounds like we are hitting the jungle with Indiana Jones or something. Don our pith helmet and let’s go looking for lions, tigers and bears…. oh, my.
Google expands any market to infinity. Our consumer cultural revolution meant we couldn’t be pushed. “No more making us buy your stupid useless junk,” we mimed to push advertisers firing up Google. Google isn’t push. Google is pull, or advertising where we determine message and action. Right, and I have a bridge over some swamp land I want to speak with you about. Google is FUN push ads with a veneer of control created by the natural search area of the tool. Google makes NO MONEY from organic or natural search. Organic search is controlled by secret Google variables in a mathematical algorithm. Natural or organic search, the terms are interchangeable, is Google’s cost of poker.
Natural search is also the ultimate white wash in a way. It provides Google the plausible deniability. "We aren’t advertising we are a search engine," they say. When is an ad not an ad? When it is on a “search engine” apparently. No worries. Creating a perfectly timed cool tool is a, “more power to them” situation. The dangerous and slightly insidious part is Google changes everything. Dangerous because solipsistic companies involved in duel in the sun battles can easily be attached by killer bees, by an information enemy they never saw coming. No Google-juice = no advertising and no advertising = no company most old-line marketers think.
Not so sure. Once advertising as we know it dies, and it is on a respirator now, a new battle emerges. Let’s get away from the Art of War analogies and call this new world an opportunity. As cynical as we are about advertising Google proves we want to believe. We live to believe, to be part of movements bigger then ourselves. Win our hearts and minds and we do MORE than buy your widgets. Win our heart and we use our mind to blog, Wiki, Facebook and Tweet your widget. Good news is online marketing done right now means customers do the heavy lifting for you. Bad news is online marketing done right means customers do the heavy lifting for you.
Google changes everything.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Piet Mondrian And My First Web Site Design
It is hard to know what I was thinking almost ten years ago, but I know who I was looking at. I was obsessively looking at Piet Modrian's paintings. We needed a design for FoundObjects.com, the funky gift distributorship I helped found. The site needed a unique design grounded in art. Most of Found Objects' customers were art museums such as The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and The Art Institute of Chicago.
The site would sell our company’s unique gifts to consumers and businesses. I was learning HTML and thinking about how to create a simple, elegant design. I was looking at Mondrian. Simple and elegant may be the hardest thing to do. It is the hardest thing to do. Google's elegant simplicity is supposedly an accident due to limited HTML knowledge by Google's founders. In 1999 Google wasn't as dominate as it is now. I didn't see the Google design then for its power and simplicity.
I had my own problems. Reading web design books I found a book that shared the truth of red, white and black. The book stated the best web sites found creative ways to limit their palette to "web safe" colors. Red, black and white are about as web safe as you can get. Red, black and white made my mind go directly to Mondrian. I spent days looking at Mondrian's work in books. I purchased slides projecting them on our office wall. I would walk into Mondrian’s grids seeing my silhouette. After several weeks, I started to program.
I will never be a programmer, but, for that summer in 1999, I forced myself to slow down and be careful. I read and reread software manuals trying to solve a simple problem - how to recreate Mondrian's grid in HTML. I didn't sleep, eat or communicate much. After the first two "lost" days everyone left me alone. Every moment my mind was working internally on spatial problems and HTML code (a foreign language then). I lost days in trial and error. Each problem resolved presented two new problems. I would solve a line problem only to throw off balance.
The work reminded me of a personal painting rut. In 1978 I was painting hash marks. I spent hours painting an increasingly dense field of hash marks. I couldn't see anything else. I couldn't think of anything else. I'd been to New York where Mondrian's late paintings struck me like a stone. Here is where I was trying to get (never made it even half way there):
One day Zandy Hillis walked into my room and yelled at me. I told Zandy, for about the 100th time, I couldn't go out because I was painting. "What paintings," she shouted throwing her hands up and exiting my room, "you are sitting on the floor drawing little lines and more little lines." Exactly, I remember thinking as she left my room, my house and my life. You have to be little nuts to want to be an artist. AND, the process of creating art drives you a little nuts.
That is what everyone around me was thinking in the summer of 1999. There were new Zandy's in my life by then. They were shouting too. I didn't let anyone see the site until the fall, until I was confident I could pull it off. Pressure started to build after Labor Day. December 25th is D-Day in any gift business. If you aren't live by Thanksgiving count the year as a loss. Tired of watching me walk around THINKING about things, our little company needed me to LAUNCH something even if it was the wrong thing, so I did. Launching FoundObjects.com in the fall of 1999 is the closest I will ever come to having children. I lost and gained something that summer almost ten years ago. Time passes in a blink of an eye. I had a Broadway Boogie Woogie that summer and will never forget.
See FoundObjects.com = Martin's First Web Site in the WayBack Machine.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
American Masters: Neil Young
Canadian Neil Young holds a special place in my musical heart. As I write this I hear After The Gold Rush and see a smoky basement in a large expensive home full of teenage rebels. We understood little about freedom or rebellion thirty years ago. Our obvious hypocrisy would never have occurred to us. There are many reasons why sitting in a basement of a Wall Street Investment Banker we couldn't see our own shadows. Being young and stupid come immediately to mind :).
PBS American Masters: Neil Young Page
Neil's journey, described to perfection in this hour long interview / documentary, sounds brave and willful. Funny how often those two words form a natural pair. "Its about the music," Neil explains and that should be explanation enough. My two favorite quotes:
"He (Charles Manson) didn't handle rejection (from record companies) very well."
"Life is a series of peaks and troughs. Most people just look at the white caps, I know when I'm down I will be coming back up soon."
Words to live by from an "Old Man".
Link to Several Great Videos of Neil Young Videos including Old Man