Advertising

Death to marketing clichés

Here are a few I’ve tweeted just in the last few minutes:

  1. Message to #marketing: There are no “brands I love”. There are lots I like, or respect, but none I love. Why should anybody? Really. #vrm— Doc Searls (@dsearls) September 22, 2014
  2. Message to #marketing: Loyalty programs are coercive. If you want customers to love you, don’t force them to carry a card. Let them go. #vrm — Doc Searls (@dsearls) September 22, 2014
  3. Message to #marketing: Having an interest in some brands doesn’t mean I want tweets, emails or pitches of any kind from any of them. #vrm — Doc Searls (@dsearls) September 22, 2014
  4. #Extranatives: Reference to the future as “going forward,” and the word “experience” when applied to design. Both are crutches & clichés. — Doc Searls (@dsearls) September 22, 2014
  5. Message to #marketers: If you “acquire,” “control,” “manage,” “own” or “lock in” customers, you share lingo with ranchers and slave-holders. — Doc Searls (@dsearls) September 23, 2014
  6. Message to #marketers We are not fish, and advertising is not food: http://t.co/q0A4EIJZeQ #vrm — Doc Searls (@dsearls) September 23, 2014

I just didn’t want to let those go un-blogged.

(On the technical front, I’m also experimenting with the new 4.0 WordPress upgrade. It doesn’t work like I expected with sourced tweets, but it still works better than the last version.)

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On Bringing Manners to Markets

Privacy in the physical world has been well understood and fairly non-controversial for thousands of years. We get it, for example, with clothing, doors, curtains and window shades. These each provide privacy by design, because they control visibility and access to our private places and spaces.

The virtual world, however, is very young, dating roughly back to 1995, when the first graphical browsers and ISPs came along. Thus, on the scale of civilization’s evolution, the Net is not only brand new, but in its infancy (the stage in life when it’s okay to go naked and pee and crap all over the place.) On the Net today, manners are almost completely absent. We see this, in a strange and mundane way, in corporate and government obsessions with gathering Big Data from consumers and citizens, mostly without their knowledge or conscious permission.

Companies today are moving budget to the Chief Marketing Officer (a title that didn’t exist a decade ago), so she or he can hire IBM, or SAP or some other BigCo to paint million-point portraits of people, with a palette of pixels harvested by surveillance, all so they can throw better marketing guesswork at them.

This isn’t new in marketing. It’s just an old practice (data-fed junk mail) that has fattened on Big Data and Big Fantasy. As a result we’re all drowning in guesswork, most of which is off the mark, no matter how well-understood we might be by the Big Data mills of the world.

Normally we would look to government to help us comprehend, guide and control infrastructures on which we utterly depend. (e.g. electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, roads and bridges). But no one entity, including government, can begin to comprehend, much less monitor and regulate, the wild and wooly thing the Net has become (even at its lower layers), especially when so much of what we do with it depends on inside giant black or near-black boxes (Google, Facebook, Twitter, et. al.). But, thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know that the U.S. government itself — via the NSA and who knows what else — is doing the same thing, and also muscling private sector companies to cooperate with them.

But that’s a problem endemic to what Gore Vidal called the “national security state”, and plain old market forces won’t have much influence on it. Democratic and political ones will, but they’re not on the table here.

At Customer Commons, our table is the marketplace, and our role in it as customers. Whatever else we do, it can’t hurt to recognize and expose practices that are just plain rude.

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We are not fish and advertising is not food

This is how the Internet looks to the online advertising business today:

2manyfish

This is how they approach it:

fishfeeding

And this is the result:

fishfeeding_mess

Advertising is a huge source of the “data pollution” Fred Wilson talked about at LeWeb a few weeks ago. (See here, starting at about 23 minutes in.)

What’s wrong with this view, and this approach, is the architectural assumption that:

  1. We are consumers and nothing more. Fish in a bowl.
  2. The Net — and the Web especially — is a container.
  3. Advertisers have a right to target us in that container. And to track us so we can be targeted.
  4. Negative externalities, such as data pollution, don’t matter.
  5. This can all be rationalized as an economic necessity.

Yet here is what remains true, regardless of the prevailing assumptions of the marketing world:

  1. We are not fish. Rather, as Cluetrain put it (in 1999!), we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. we are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. deal with it.
  2. The Net was designed as a wide open space where all the intelligence that matters is at its ends, and each of us sits (stands, walks, drives) at one.
  3. Even if advertisers have a legal right to target us, their manners are terrible and doomed for correction.
  4. Negative externalities matter. A lot. As Fred said in his talk, we eventually dealt with the pollution caused by industry, and we’ll deal with it in the virutal world as well.
  5. The larger economic necessity is for a well-functioning marketplace. We’ll get that online once free customers prove more valuable than captive ones.

The key is to replicate online the experience of operating as a free and independent customer in the physical world.

For example, when you go into a store, your default state is anonymity. Unless you are already known by name to the people at the store,  you are nameless by default. This is a civic grace. There is no need to know everybody by name, and to do so might actually slow things down and make the world strange and creepy. (Ask anybody who has lived in a surveillance state, such as East Germany before it fell, what it is like to be followed, or to know you might be followed, all the time.) We haven’t yet invented ways to be anonymous online, or to control one’s anonymity. But that’s a challenge, isn’t it? Meaning it is also a market opportunity.

We’ve lived in a fishbowl long enough. Time to get human. I guarantee there’s a lot more money coming from human beings than from fish whose only utterances are clicks.

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