Sunday, October 14, 2001

Reading Gonzo…engaged


My wanderings inside of Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices


Ah. Worst practices… I get it.

I think.

Doing the wrong thing at the right time. Like the lady at the World Trade Center who took the elevator to the ground floor after the plane hit the tower she worked in. Smoke and fire poured into her office, and although she knew you don't take the elevator in a fire, she got on and pressed the button that would take her to the ground floor. The result? She made it out of the building, while many of her colleagues are dead. I heard her on the news. She said something like, "I did exactly what you are not supposed to do, and because of that, I made it out alive." Today's organizations need to take these risks to make it out alive.

How is voice delivered on the Net? The evolution: Initially, email. Then, build your own homepage! Right now, it's blogs. What next? Interconnected communities of blogs or blog-like entities. Perhaps all hyperlinked together in a nearly untraceable map of interrelations… six degrees of separation? Every blog connected to every other not more than six blogs away? Can it happen? It is happening.

These interconnected 'places of voice' are not the communities we see today on Amazon and in other over-designed pre-fab online subdivisions, but instead real communities, with potholes and assholes--just like real life.

Page 12 - I pause. I worry about what this "America's New War" will do to our homes online. I worry at once about the online and offline world.

-Hendrix, Machine Gun, Band of Gypsies

Net markets are micromarkets. Absolutely fascinating. If not traditional demographics-if we have no previous behaviors, no history, if micromarkets are like a hundred push pins clumped in seemingly unrelated chaotic masses on my cube wall-then how do I target them? I'm used to seeing a single poster hung with four push pins, one in each corner. I can see the center of my target. I can predict. I can hit the center if I throw my pencil. But how do I target these clumps? How do I know whether or not my Anal Probe will sell?

Play is one essential ingredient shared between the organization and the voices. But real play. Not pretend brand-bolstering play… How will play among communities and members evolve when I can't touch. I can't wait to find out.


First matter of business… Yes, all your base are really does belong to us.

OH, you can't see me! I'm doing a dance just now. It's the "Market Research Is Dead" dance. We don't need no market research, we don't need no thought control, no dark sarcasm in the boardroom, marketers leave them kids alone.

That ROI, goddamn him.

The Internet-an alternative to mass media. Right. The Net is hostile to mass media. Laughs at it. Expels it in favor of me seeking out what I want to know, not you directing at me what I should want to know because that's what I once wanted to know… probably a really long time ago…

Passive yields to Active. Eyeballs to Voice.

Ideas create new markets. You are really going to confuse the Titanic Deck Chair Rearrangement Corporation with this one. I am afraid they may abscond with you, tie you to a leather wingback, and pelt you with any number of logo-emblazoned trinkets, from stress balls to those little magnetic word pieces. They will want to know-"WHAT SPECIFIC IDEAS, LOCKE? TELL US NOW, YOU ANTI-CAPITALIST BASTARD, OR WE WILL MAKE YOU VP!" Don't worry, we'll send help.

And the point is, Mass Media vs. The Net.

Companies vs. P-e-o-p-l-e.

Page 23 - How perfect the analogy of the dancing hamster to what organizations 'predict' will sell. Instead of reaching the conclusion, "Oh my God, we know nothing," they infer quite illogically that maybe they should rush Web services into developing an animated GIF of a dancing gerbil, or dancing frog-oh yes, or a dancing iguana-to display proudly on their homepage (assuming the magic must have something to do with animals small enough to fit in a glass fish tank). Can't see the forest for the trees.

It's not an equation; it's an experience, stupid.

Page 26 - the whole investor thing is interesting. Really, dot-com-dom was made possible by the generous contributions of rich white men trying to invest in the Internet. Literally. Invest in the Internet. Think about it-it doesn't work. Because investing in an Internet company is not investing in the Internet. No one owns it. It's a network. Connections, baby. Not a thing… but a thing that connects other things. Companies think they 'dominate' it, claim to 'leverage it' and build lots of gadgets 'powered by it'. But no one owns it. Get it? It's just a silly funhouse mirror to the offline world.

The last paragraph of pg 27 is beautiful.

Page 30 - I laughed out loud-snickered anyway. The office boy for Rage Boy™. That's good.

I'm scared about the Rageboy™ thing. Not your rageboy (no trademark here--I'm using it generically-notice the lower case), but the variation of rageboy you think we all have. How can I keep writing nice things about my coveted "blue chip" clients--and usually "as" one of my clients--if I admit to having a ragegirl inside of me. I can never ever acknowledge her.

Never ever let her out. Think of what could happen. Brands built by the grace of God and millions of dollars destroyed because I use the F-word in an article on The Future of Wireless in the Travel Industry…(yes, it gets that bad), or worse yet, hit the [send] button in an email that says what I want to say to a prissy editor who loathes the very existence of my kind, instead of the pithy pitch they're expecting. Oooooooh here she comes…. Ready?

"Please read our 'Getting Ink' section." Fuck you. I've gotten ink since you were in diapers you underpaid, pseudo-intellectual nobody. "Read our PR Dos and Don't's." Bite my ass. Here are three of my personal favorites:

  • Don't pick up the phone until you become familiar with our publication -- its mission, editorial focus, readership and deadline requirements. The best way to accomplish this is to study several issues of [our publication] {name deleted because it might really piss off CIO magazine} thoroughly and
    read [our] Media Kit.
  • Don't call editors or writers to confirm receipt of your unsolicited press releases or faxes. Use the "receipt" feature on your email or fax instead. We open every piece of mail addressed to us - you can safely assume we have received your correspondence.
  • Don't expect an answer to a story proposal overnight. Depending upon the demands of their schedules, our editors may not have the chance to review your proposal for two to three weeks. If you're idea is of interest, you will be hearing from us.

Could they be more condescending? How about these, for all of the mightier-than-thou Internet publication hacks who gave us grief over the last three years:

  • Don't patronize and piss off industry professionals who work for your publication for free-providing most of the stuff your readers pay you for.
  • Don't fill your publication with so many lame ads that it makes your magazine 600 pages thick and you have to start publishing it twelve times a month, you greedy fuck.
  • Don't look like an idiot when no one is buying ad space anymore, you have to layoff half your staff, and your magazine is now 3 pages and comes out twice a year.

I could go on, but I better reel her back in. Okay. You were right. That felt so good. I am sure it could get addictive. But in a profession where spin is the rule, not the exception, there is no room for a ragegirl. She must be squashed.

I am canceling my subscription to EGR--that man is a lunatic. He's got me talking all kinds of crazy.

Incidentally, now I know why you have an alter ego. So you can save your regular ego to fall back on when the alter ego gets you fired, huh?

Pages 39-41 - Did you get a new Explorer out of this deal? At my job, we now have the ability on our global Intranet to launch our own communities--it's just starting, so I don't know what kind of universe will take shape, but so far they aren't putting any restrictions on what communities we set up--and everyone has the ability and freedom to start and administer a community. As you can guess, single twenty-somethings across our network are all a twitter. It should be a fun experiment.


Pages 45-47 - Bring on the Prozac. For some reason, these pages are depressing me. The news is depressing me for starters… They just about offed Tom Brokaw, but luckily he has a minion opening his mail. Maybe the most depressing thing is the whole shoot-em-up you've just done to my old friend, the "value proposition."

You see, until the seeds sewn in books like Cluetrain and Gonzo germinate within companies themselves, then they will never ever accept from me, and other marketing do-gooders, that their "leading solution" can do anything but "deliver value by leveraging the power of the Internet to seamlessly connect marketplace participants in order to drive new efficiencies and cost savings." They won't let me say it any other way-it's the voice they pay dearly for.

They won't (not yet--hell Gonzo hasn't even shipped yet) pay those bucks for me to converse with their prospects... so that I can instead say that their beta release software might one day "let sellers find out what buyers are looking for through genuine online conversations, negotiate a deal, and then--voila--the transaction." For the same reason companies want to look like the big guys, paying for four-color bleeds in 12-page brochures that should be a page, they want to sound like the big guys. Until gonzo gets gooey, we're stuck writing the stuff you shoot holes in. It makes me feel kind of hopeless. Or useless. Hence the depressing mood I'm now in.

Let's continue. Maybe it will get better.

Pages 51-57 - Synchronicity. I just got off the phone with my friend, where I quoted Bobby McGee… freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose… been on my mind lately, and there it is on your page 51. As with my Pink Floyd reference earlier, I didn't know you quoted similarly until I got there. Which is really the beauty of writing as you review--you discover--engaged--you happen upon things. Beautiful really. I finally see a use for e-books…

Interactive reviews… write as you read… experience the book. Does a product exist for this? Read the book in the right hand column… Record your thoughts in the left… Somehow you co-write and revise what you are reading… giving it breath beyond the paper page. Continuing the voice--adding new voices to the author's voice… Then, we can merge this co-thinking, co-speaking, and co-mingling of ideas into a creation of its own. A daughter publication. And, the cycle could start again. Think of where we would end up--so far away from, and yet I suspect so close to, the original piece. Anyway… My God, How Did I Get Here?

Page 58 - Ught Oh. After that brief bright spot, my mood is getting darker. You are quite correct. Companies can't love. Oh such words of truth that so many people ignore… And I say, LISTEN TO LOCKE. Case in point. There was this brokerage company. 700 employees died in the WTC fire that melted metal beams, or had to make the most spine chilling decision any of us have ever witnessed (via the miracle of TV) to leap 100 stories to their deaths… or don't forget the other option; they could crawl under their desks and wait to be pancaked within 200 million tons of rubble.

Okay, so the CEO does what… He weeps. Sure, he's human. He's lost 700 of members of his "family," he said as he sobbed on a CNN interview, promising to do everything possible for the victims' families. Spared because he took his son to school on his first day of kindergarten, the CEO is alive. Almost all of his 'company' isn't.

SO what does he do? Ten days after the death of his extended family, he stops the paychecks. The families say, our loved ones are still missing-not DEAD (yet), you ASSHOLE! He says the insurance policies (you know those benefits they use to woo you to join their team) now have a cap of 100K. Sorry. If your husband had a million dollar policy to care for his four kids in private school--you'll have to take them out. Public schools in New York are really very good. It's a time of national crisis. We all have to sacrifice. I'm sure your house will sell. I feel your pain. I wish I could do more, but I really can't do any more than that. My company is in shambles. Really. I weep for you. Isn't that enough? [Ed. note-during this time, you couldn't access the company's web site.]

Here's my guess on what happened next: his PR Agency's Crisis Management team swept into action, grabbed him off the air, wiped his eyes, gave him a quick round of Media Training, and came up with a really great plan. This week he announced oh yes, he'll pay the salaries and has contributed $1 million out of his own pocket to a fund for the families of his company. In fact, the Web site (which is up again) now expresses the company's love for members of its 'family.'

"On behalf of all of us at Cantor Fitzgerald, I would like to express our deepest and heartfelt condolences for the loss of your loved ones in the World Trade Center tragedy. We want to do everything we can to be of assistance to you during this painful time. Through the cooperative efforts of the Cantor Fitzgerald, eSpeed and TradeSpark families, we are doing our utmost to quickly address and resolve all the issues that require attention. To that end, we are doing our best to maintain close communication with all of our families."

Ooops. I said the company name. Can I get sued for that?

Shame they didn't think of that first. He must have been busy on the phone with the payroll processing company saying-Hooo there, buddy; I can't pay 700 dead people. Stop the presses….

And I'll stop now. I don't know this guy from a bag of assholes, and I could be completely wrong about the course of events, and I'm sure he's a great guy. But the lesson remains the same: Don't mistake that the company you work for is different.

It's an organization, not an organism. It's not alive. And it's NOT your family.

Page 60 - Now I want to quit my job. What are you doing to people? I need to take my antidepressants, have one more cigarette, and go to bed. I'll see you in chapter 3.


Page 68 - You say synchronicity about your wiener/KOOLAID® experience. Earlier, I said synchronicity referring to our mutual summonsing of Bobby McGee. It's synchronicity, isn't it? I am afraid of this thing that is happening--I wonder something, and then you address it some number of pages later--usually about 6. But how do you know I've thought this thought, or asked this question? Are you writing the book still? As I read it? Or is this some kind of new personalization technique…. Permission reading…. Marvelous trick if so. Only through the miracle of the Internet.

Page 76 - Courtney Love. Hmmm. In the days of Kurt Cobain I thought she was no more than a sleezy sidekick who was likely at the root of his not-so-mysterious death. Then I started reading some of the stuff you reference here--most importantly, her reel against the record companies and her digital music philosophies. And I thought, holy shit--she's smarter than I am. So I'm glad to see her pop up here as a Hole turned 'marketing' heroine, or at least as a broad with a brain and a definitive voice… ragegirl indeed. Her music sucks, but I'd hire her for my management team in a minute.

Page 84 - "Today, competition is not coming from offshore, but from agile net startups catering to Web-based micromarkets that don't yet raise a blip on the demographic oscilloscope." Is it still so? I am hoping to add a hint of optimism here. I used to work with dozens of these nimble startups - watched many die - and now have a fresh roster of the big-old-mothers we all knew before the Net came along. When I was able to shed the big guys in favor of constructw@re, cyberoffice, Derivion, Per-Se, and Idapta…. Those were the days. Man, it was fun.

Today, like a newly sober attendee at an AA meeting, the old coots are admitting the error of their ways. Many have come back with a sense of humbleness they didn't have before. The nimble guys whipped their asses and made them shell out lots of money in order to outmarket and finally buy the little twirps.

Some of these old timers have even come to admit, "I don't know what we did wrong, but we've been doing something very wrong. (i.e., Ya'll may have something with this here Net.) My job sometimes feels like physical rehabilitation--I'm stretching out their stiff, tight joints and trying to re-teach heavy old limbs how to m-o-v-e. The jury is out. But some of them have begun to use their imaginations.

Does this mean you won't get to write gonzo 2? Yeh, right. Hey, I'm not an idiot!

Consumer networks. Uh-huh. I like the sound of that. It has rumblings. I am looking forward to this...

If you listen you can hear it
It's the laughter in the street
It's the motion in the music
And the fire beneath your feet
All the signs are right this time
You don't have to try so very hard
If you live in this world
You're feelin' the change of the guard
-steely dan, change of the guard

Page 94. Can I tell you my permission… uh intrusion marketing story? So I'm laying in a hospital bed. It's 5:30 p.m., the day after my six-hour emergency surgery, transfustion, and close-call with the grim reaper. I'm literally not doing so good. I had just hung up the phone with my Aunt Penny in New York. I'm thinking, Aunt Penny-she can always lift my spirits. The phone rings. I sling my IV lines out of the way and grab the receiver, tape pulling at the needles in my hand.
"This is (some asshole) with AT&T. I have some great news on how you can save on your long distance service…"
"Who? With What? This is my hospital room. I just had surgery. Are you out of your mind?" [click.]

Well later that day, I was feeling my oats (morphine does that), so I decide to get out my calling card (which I had used to place the call to my Aunt Penny), flip it over, and call the 800 number to say what in the fuck are you calling hospital rooms for? Well, I reach a poor call center sap. Talk about a lousy job. And I tell her about this most amazing experience-near death… surgery… hospital room… use my calling card… hang up… phone rings… want to save on long distance?… blah blah. I ask her, how on earth did you find me here and why did you call me-I was busy praying for my life. And she tells me the truth. They randomly track calls placed with calling cards, they see where the call was initiated from, and they call that number back to deliver their telemarketing message. And she admits this: They have gotten lots of complaints for people in hospital rooms who get these calls.

"It happens all the time," she says. "Sorry about that."

No free minutes. No we're working on fixing that. No we're ditching this stupid idea, don't you worry.

No more business from me.

Once I was off the morphine, I asked myself the kicker question: If the (asshole) had known he was calling me in my hospital bed, would he have made the call? You answer that. Think of the beauty of that strategy… The drugged patient says, "Sure, whatever, NURSE! My IV bag is empty." They shoot. They score.

By the way, I lived.

--Note: Spell check was unavailable due to blog maintenance at 2 a.m., so forgive me for errors. Be back later. smoke, meds, bed...--

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