Saturday, January 26, 2002

Tom had a pretty good gloss of my point of view when he said "Assume that we are not dealing with people, but with mathematical and economic mechanisms that have no way of understanding that anything else matters, really, other than the lifeblood of their revenue streams."

Think of the business world as an evolutionary landscape, where the goal is to survive. Gonzo will win in such an environment when companies that adopt Gonzo outperform companies that don't. So the issue is the definition of "outperform".

A company's survival -- the willingness of its investors and creditors to offer their capital -- is not based on the popularity of its marketing, or the tone of voice in which it speaks to its audience, or the good feeling it engenders among its customers. It is not based on customer loyalty, or sales volume. It is not based on revenues, or even on revenue growth.

It is based on profitability.

Despite the contempt for the bean counters, the only thing that can guarantee a company's survival (and I mean *every one*, from freelancers to General Electric) is a making sure that every year, "beans in - beans out > 0". So a company will only adopt a new form of marketing when effectiveness divided by cost adds up to somethign more efficient than its current methods.

Now its obvious to me that Gonzo will work well in places where cost is large (e.g. cars, computers), so that there is enough money to pay for real human voices, but I am fairly sure that Gonzo will not work where cost is already small, i.e. high-volume/low-margin commodities -- bleach, beer, flour, rice, on and on, the stuff that accounts for most marketing dollars spent.

So I'm not buying that telling the people who run the corporations "The revolution is coming and you better get on board, even if, uh, we can't really be sure that you'll earn any more money when it happens..." constitutes much of a revolution, and without seeing how Gonzo creates cheaper marketing campaigns when indexed to effectiveness, I can't see how it helps anybody compete in a mass market.

I thought you'd like to read an inspired email I received from Marek of soapbox, radio possibility, and monkey-is-not-enough fame on his recent bookstore read of Seth Godin's latest marketing BS dump... I got Marek's pahmishon to reprint the email here. I promised no one would sue him. It shows how passionate some people can be about their likes and dislikes (maybe even bordering on murderous rage from time to time) especially here in the world of blogs, where it counts. I think Marek meant "bald" yoyo instead of "bold" yoyo, but you'll have to stop by soapbox and ask him.

Subject: This fucker Godin is pissing me off.
Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2002 00:08:09 -0600
From: "Marek J"


Jez, sorry but I just wanted to fire off a message to someone. I need help, cause my mental abilities have been insulted by a fucking bold yoyo man who wants me to have sex with my boss. If you feel spammed by me with this message I apologize. Just delete it or just tell me to stop bothering you and never send stupid emails again.

OK, here we go.

This fucker Seth Godin is really pissing me off. Yeah, I've had some fun with soapbox* and this Agent of worst practices shit but it was mainly 'good sport' shit, few laughs, some parody and stuff...

I just read the book 'survival is not enough' (whatever the fuck that means). Mind you, I did not spend any money on this shit at all. I was at a local Barnes&Noble and I picked it put and started reading. And reading I was, like a fucking retarded farmer from Poland, cause that fucking book is written like a fucking carefully constructed scheme of some fucking enlightenment and shoved up my 5th grade educated polish peasant's ass. Mind you the enlightenment can be had only after a secret handshake has been exchanged with the guy who does the shoving up....

First off (on page 6 I think) Godin rips off Rageboy's 'Entropy' reversals metaphor. As a 'good sport', Godin could've mentioned Chris, but NOooooooooo, the motherfucker steels ideas right and left and repackages them with new phrases. So you can imagine that from page 6 to the end my fucking 'filter' was set. It's a fucking WAR with the yoyo bold motherfucker. Speaking of 'filter' shit metaphor, Godin is so slimy in its usage as if HE invented the fucking paradigm of 'holographic context that shapes, bends and colors everything created by holding on to a point of one's view of the world', whatever.... , my mind comes up with strange phrases when I am pissed, forgive me.

OK, slow down..... deep breath. man. Pace yourself....

Fuck, why do I swear so much? Cause I'm fucking pissed as shit. I considered Seth a 'Good Sport' you know but noooooooo, the fucker had to write this fucking retarded book for fucking retarded middle-fucking managers who want to zooooommm the fuck into the future on the backs of the fucking peasants......He really created a problem for me cause now I'm gonna work for these managerial Zoom-Monkeys and surly they will want me to zoom with them...

What's the most insulting about this book is that it's written for a specific audience with a specific purpose - The middle managers who need a new meme to celebrate their imbecility by calling it Zoometry.....

Looking back I am glad I got kicked out of FastCompany's message boards for saying some shit like the above on some other enlightened topic some other fucker was shoving up....

I don't think this review would be allowed to be posted at, you think?

OK, I got to go now and get a beer and some cigarettes now and regroup.

I thank you for your generous attention.

Marek J

um, no it's not.
Heranai says:

This new system is not based on the mass concept. The micromarkets and communities creates the new audience.

Yes, I understand that. This makes the new system good for anything that doesn't need a mass audience, and bad for anything that does. Which is why bleach and Jell-o are problems for Gonzo, which in turn limits Gonzo's revolutionary potential, since the majority of marketing is CPG marketing.

Feet of clay? Perhaps... it has come to my attention that he who has registered the RageBoy trademark skirts the truth. Sometimes. For example, before I dug into the Rants and Screeds I was pleased to believe the claim that Locke had been a brain surgeon in a former life. But monkey brains? Anyone who has taken a Chinese cooking class has had access to monkey brains. We're talking high tech sophomoric pither here... a far cry from human (as one NATURALLY infers) brain surgery. Talk about your inflated resumes.

And later, as a flack for the Carnegie smart people foundation, Locke leaves his phone number with potential interviewees. But the number he leaves in the narrative is Pennsylvania area code 412 information which I think trivializes the work and lacks a certain verisimilitude. Relying on the device of the 555- prefix jerks the gentle reader out of the marvelous suspension of disbelief into which s/he has been lulled. From RageBoy I expected more. Perhaps Cheney's cell phone. He's a public figure for christ's sake, you think he's gonna sue? But no-ooooooooo. Rageboy lays in the old (412) 555 NPA/Nxx and we're left shaking our head and wondering: "I paid $17.50 for this piece of crap?" I'll finish the book I'm sure, since there seems to be plenty of sex and drugs in it, not to mention the potential for violence and nostalgia-fostering references to old time rock n roll and a literary allusion or two which is not bad for a geezer who still can't spell Hiaasen.

But at this point, I'm hoping it gets better.
Gonzo Marketing is not about marketing at all. It´s an anti marketing standpoint. It advocates to the markets. Since the markets are conversation, hyperlinks subvert hierarchy and the people is getting smarter because the mouth to mouth accelerator. But if you analyse by the corporation point of view... money is money and profits is the god to reach.
The Web is the real world. We are building it mirrowing at our own existence. And nobody can deny that the commom people is becoming more powerfull. The relation between corporations and people is mutating (at least). The digital markets have destroyed the old concepts and are constructing itself in another way. Lists, blogs, sites are translating the common word to the commom people. And everybody in the Net enjoys the micromarkets approach. Internet is the new media that live altogether with the old one. Internet is a new layer. A very more sophisticated way to communicate and interact. This new system is not based on the mass concept. The micromarkets and communities creates the new audience. It´s where the voice is and where the new media is. Locke on The Gonzo Model suggests “... corporate underwriting is a way – perhaps the only viable way at present – for companies to put their own money where the mouth is”. That´s it!
The idea of corporations started with organisations granted monopolies in a particular endeavour by the crown - think of the British East India Company, or the orginal bubble, the South Sea company whose manipulations of government debt and parliamentary bribes make Enron look amateurish.
Many companies today subsist on similar government-backed monopolies - think of the companies that 'own' the broadcast spectrum, or telephone networks. Both of these are under threat from grass roots networks based on open-spectrum protocols like 802.11.
The economies of scale don't hold true when people will no longer put up with identical products, and can connect with each otehr to express their dissatisfaction.

Friday, January 25, 2002

Heavy thinking and thinkers aside, I'm lining up for the prize that Epeus Epigone surely offers in his Orwellian quiz below. I think it was not Janis Joplin who offered those interesting insights 18 years ago, but perhaps her band's namesake? Did I get it right? Now back to the news...
"Chairman Jobs today marked the one month anniversary of Apple's spectacular defeat of the parasitic clones, who were intent on invading the Motherland's sacred high-end profit margins. Chairman Jobs remarked as followed (sic)..."

Looks like the parasitic clones won that round.
I take your point, Tom, that we should not focus too much on supplier-customer interaction at the point of sale. Perhaps simplistic analogies obscure the pervasive nature of change and shifting balances of forces. Bearing in mind that I question a real, IT-driven transfer of power from the corporation to the customer (as b!X posits), let's assume that we are indeed the locus of a fulcrum of power capable of restructuring "the way we do business" along the axis and across the spectrum. All I'm asking is, "Has this not always been the case?" Businesses are incorporeal entities comprising consumers at work. We all, to differing degrees and at different levels, carry out the functions of the company and the customer. We should therefore know whether or not we are the locus of such power. If we accept that we are, we have to accept responsibility for what we have done with that power to now or put ourselves in the camp of the disenfranchised. When we speak of reshaping capital formation, corporate law and generally accepted accounting practices, we are talking of using that power to effect fundamental social and economic change across national boundaries. Beyond our ability to communicate so readily on the Web, where is this power to change the way we "do business" in evidence? In Houston? Palestine? South Asia. South America? I can't find it anywhere.

We either don't have it or we have abused it. With globalization and the rise to power of the IMF, WB, and WTO, we've seen how some wield the power we give them. History has shown us that government is influenced as much by economic forces as the local gas station pump jockey. Over the past 150 years, all we appear to have done is shift the Dickensian conditions under which First World labor suffered, to the greater part of the planet while reserving consumption for an increasingly small elite. We, at the locus of the fulcrum of power, have done precious little, despite the massive progress made between 1900 and 1970, to slow the increasing gap developing between the rich and the poor (who, we are told, will always be with us). Since the emergence of information technologies wielding immense economic clout, have we seen a slowdown in the growth of disparity? No, it has speeded inequity. At a macro level, I see little evidence that the consumer who fouls the planet even wants to effect positive changes to business practices, the laws governing them, and the type of person they wish to see reflecting their new sense of community.

I am beating no drum here, Tom, I'm merely trying to understand the difference between that which is evident and that which Chris foresees. I am a high-school dropout whose world view has been naively acquired. I read, watch, and listen. A couple of years ago, I happened across an article by Thomas Frank, editor of The Baffler (defunct?), entitled "The Rise of Market Populism: America's New Secular Religion". A poorly constructed review of his book, "One Market, Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism and the End of Economic Democracy" (Doubleday), highlights the value of Frank's thesis in the aftermath of September 2001, and an interview with the New York Times makes for thought-provoking reading. Frank's loathing of market populism makes perfect sense to me. He details how, during the 90s, the notion or markets as mediums of exchange and consent was subverted and, ultimately, gave rise to the sick situation whereby Dubya could give tax breaks for corporations and a cut in the capital gains tax as a response to "terrorism". While his views do not seem to conflict with those articulated in GM, they do perpetuate my skeptical approach to a ready acceptance that consumers have the power to do very much at all.

Hmm, as I've wandered up this creek far away from GM, perhaps I should close with a question. "What, if anything, is the difference between Thomas Frank and Chris Locke? Put another way, what does Locke see that Frank does not?" I am looking for answers here, by the way. Treat me as you would any slow learner. Educate me.
My friends, each of you is a single cell in the great body of the State. And today, that great body has purged itself of parasites. We have triumphed over the unprincipled dissemination of facts. The thugs and wreckers have been cast out. And the poisonous weeds of disinformation have been consigned to the dustbin of history. Let each and every cell rejoice! For today we celebrate the first, glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directive! We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths. Our Unification of Thought is a more powerful weapon than any fleet or army on Earth! We are one people. With one will. One resolve. One cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death. And we will bury them with their own confusion! We shall prevail!

(who said this 18 years ago today?)

To make some headway in answering Mike's question, it might be useful to try to dislodge, however minutely, the polarity "sincere conversation vs. hard-nosed biz profiteers" - let's take for a moment Clay Shirkys' perspective here as emblematic of the logic of corporate existence. Assume that we are not dealing with people, but with mathematical and economic mechanisms that have no way of understanding that anything else matters, really, other than the lifeblood of their revenue streams. (I take Clay's point to be, this is how they operate, so get used to it.) The question becomes not whether these entities, these things - using the term advisedly - will "get" gonzo; it's more whether we, as the locus of the new fulcrum of power, will continue to allow corporations to be constituted the way they are under law today. In the Divine Right of Capital, Marjorie Kelly shows how a restructuring of the accounting equations currently used can put disenfranchised employees (currently not even considered hard assets, as Enron reminds us) into a position of belonging to the reason why the corporation exists. I.e., if the fulcrum is moving, it has to move not merely at the point of company-customer contact (whether throught sales or marketing); it has to occur all along the axis of corporate law, accounting practices, and probably capital formation.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

Thanks b!X, for putting RB's argument for change so succinctly. If he'd done the same, we wouldn't have an excuse to debate the matter and he'd receive no royalties.

For my part, I don't foresee a transfer of marketing power and influence to the wired consumer so sudden that large businesses will be left out of the loop. I believe the customer has always had the power to choose but has not always exercised that power. Whether or not the Web will initiate (or has initiated) significant behavioral changes, is debatable. Our belief in it having done so is, at the moment, born more of conviction than hard evidence. Personally, I do believe that change is slowly taking place. Consumers are more informed and will become even more so in a process as evolutionary as past behavioral changes (forty years ago, educated customers were laughing at clueless corporates). Of course the clueless will ignore these changes and they will rightly go out of business. Those that acknowledge them, will become even more powerful. I'm talking the likes of Microsoft and .Net here (or AOL should it prevail), not made-for-Web business like the now profit-generating Amazon. I believe we underestimate the power of big business. Does Microsoft not "listen to our needs" and, as a result, do most of us not use their product? Okay, some of those here might not but 100m desktops do.

My point is that the process is as old as the hills and has taken place with the advent of every new medium in the past. In the long run, I believe most large businesses will adapt their tactics to market behavior but they will do so merely to continue exploiting the naivety of the average consumer.

If they do start engaging their customers in forums such as this one, they will do so to maximize priofit rather than indulge in sincere exchanges of mutually beneficial ideas. (Could it also not be that Chris has missed his own point, i.e. that he is tracing conversations that run far deeper, over longer time spans, than those that affect the hubbub of the day-to-day marketplace? I've a feeling he has a book addressing far wider issues fighting its way out of his crazed psyche.)

Back to the business of business though. What I perhaps should have asked in my last post was, "How does a debate like this move from being a prolonged chat between members of the market segment in question (this amounts to a pretty intimate circle of friends) to an engagement with hardnosed businesspeople or those charged with dumping product onto us? Do they give a damn whether or not they drown us in spam, be it in print, email, onscreen, or on the idiot box? Could they care less whether the Web survives another year? We'll always need bleach." The book, after all, clearly articulates its argument and needs little elaboration (I assume). We need some hard-eyed marketing practitioners rousting things up a bit. I suspect they might raise many of the same questions as Andrew Goodman of Traffick does in his now complete review of the book. Responses to the questions Andrew asks would be illuminating for business, the potential customer, and our buddy now eking out his existence on the publisher's pence.
These sources are enough to convince me that, just as this list is not designed to be the hotbed of a counter revolution reclaiming our right to choose the way businesses speak to us, the book itself will do little to change the way business does business.

My understanding of CTM and Gonzo thus far (I'm about halfway thru the latter book now) is that it's not merely about business changing the way it markets. It's about the power and influence of marketing changing hands from those businesses to (I hate this word but I will use it here anyway) consumers, thanks to the rise of networks both technological and social.

When it comes to business, the point (as near as I can tell) is that they either participate in this shift, accept it and become a real part of it -- rather than try to manufacture markets thru manipulation and sheer fiction -- or they are going to have signficant troubles.

I'm still divided on to what degree I believe all of this. But this is my read of the proposition.
Since we're confessing... I now own all three, have read most of GM, read quite a bit of the Rants and Screeds as they appeared but not in the bound version, and haven't chewed into CM yet but have followed the whole reformation thing since soon after the theses were nailed to the virtual cathedral of commerce's door.

I don't think there is a roadmap here nor is one needed. Nor do I believe that there is anything to teach the b-school buffoons or the global corporate carrot-ocracy. Those who can feel the water rising will learn to swim. Those who can see the icebergs ahead may correct their courses.

What seems important to me is the improved access to information and the reduced transaction costs associated with web. This seems trivial as I write it, but the micro-market model posited in GM is probably no more important than the macro-information exchange possibilities. The markets-as-conversations model is important, yet the content of the conversation, the truth of the information exchanged is what dominates. There has been an important discussion on the cluetrain mail list about voice. As important, and not discussed recently, is the leveling capacity of the web as far as content is concerned. The truth is out there in a thousand voices. I'm convinced that that this tool, the net, can provide me the info I need to identify the best muzzle for Fang and the best price for the muzzle. What more do we need. (Fang of course is pissed since why would I muzzle a talking dog anyway?)

Anyway, "hyperlinks subvert hierarchy" and "smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language." That's a lot of what it's about.
I must admit to something.

Beyond the online version of CTM and the teaser material from GM, I have read neither. But Chris Locke, Dave Weinberger, and Doc Searles sold me on them a long time ago and I will eventually acquire my copies. In South Africa, spending $20 on a book is becoming increasingly indefensible (I'm becoming quite comfortable crying penury as the ZA Rand slides ever deeper into recession – it can’t be good for me). Nonetheless, as their initial popularity fades in the North, we will gain reasonably priced access to them and I will eventually settle down to wading through their content.

In the meantime, though, I can only judge GM's content by its cover, by what is said of it, and by the behavior of its author.

These sources are enough to convince me that, just as this list is not designed to be the hotbed of a counter revolution reclaiming our right to choose the way businesses speak to us, the book itself will do little to change the way business does business. The stereotypical businessperson, whether in a marketing or any other policy making position, does not readily adopt what he or she construes to be the latest, flavor-of-the-month approach to marketing. In the main, businesspeople are inflexible. They take a hell of a long time to put common sense to practice. New ideas, concepts, and templates for their implementation, must be hammered into their heads with the utmost sensitivity (not exactly a word that springs to mind where RB’s concerned).

I'm interested, beyond the reviews, in finding out what impact GM has had to now. To this end, I'd be keen to know if RB has figures on the number of copies pre-sold into business schools, universities, and other higher-learning institutions. Is he able or prepared to divulge such information. I'd be most surprised to find out that it has not been adopted or is not on the reading lists of tertiary institutions across North America and Europe. It is in these places that tomorrow's marketers are being bred and, at the moment, they are still being force fed the same old crap taught their fathers.

Until their diet changes, little else will. We will continue to be affronted by 90-second TV adverts punting the good work environmentalists are doing in far-flung corners of paradise while in the employ of the oil companies burying the same places in toxic sludge. The thought displeases me.

Mike Golby

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

damn sad to see you go fishrush...
but "I will get byeeeeeeee..." somehow.... and yes, I'm keeping the highly coveted award... unless I'm s'posed to throw it over the fence at the White House like some kinda disgruntled VietNam vet giving back his highly prized medals for valor and being there and what not...
Fishrush, fishrush, wherefore art thou, fishrush?

thank you for visiting the site. i'm kaput, spent, done, finished, so there won't be any more updates. i've gotta get back to work or go skiing or something...
shalom - may that which is good be with you, in you and all about you on your journeys.

~ fishrushed

And suddenly a hush falls upon blogland. The fish are quiet, sleeping beneath the coral reef, waiting for the current to sweep something their way.
It won't be the same without ya, fishrush.

Um, can we keep our award anyhow?

The Gonzo approach to TV ads on the web was, of lamented memory. It provided a useful cultural reference point by digitising ads and posting them on the web, but it ran out of money for the bandwidth bills and business types it picked up (It used to be one chap in his bedroom with a VCR and a computer) and it never was paid by the advertisers involved.
The NY Times is bringing television ads to the web:

Television is without a doubt the most effective channel for promoting brand recognition. But the question of how advertisers can create ads on the Web that are as effective as those on TV may not be worth asking--especially when the answer is to simply put TV ads on the Web
But step back - how is Bleach made? It uses chemicals that can cause pollution. In fact it is a chemicla tht causes pollution. There is a big constituency of people who care about this, and you could have a Gonzo campaign to promote your better process, or less damaging bleach alternative.

Here's a question. Which would be more gonzo: An alternative-to-bleach manfacturer starting or becoming involvedin a site where people discuss such products, their uses, and their alternatives; or a bleach manufacturer opening and/or sponsoring (or whatever) a website for people to discuss such products, their uses, and their alternatives?
Bleach is a problem though - not much scope for product differentiation there; all you are buying is a simple chemical compound. You can add scent to it (like Chlorox do) and you can sell it in different concentrations, but basically it is a pure commodity.

But step back - how is Bleach made? It uses chemicals that can cause pollution. In fact it is a chemicla tht causes pollution. There is a big constituency of people who care about this, and you could have a Gonzo campaign to promote your better process, or less damaging bleach alternative. Of course, you'd have to create a less damaging alternative or lose your market...

How about heavy users of bleach? People with obsessive-compulsive disorder? Maybe not.

I know, how about new mothers - they need to sterilize things a lot, or think they do. How about a Gonzo campaign to support new mothers? Like this one?

(BTW, who chose the invisible link colour combination here - it turns my linksinto a braille interface).

Monday, January 21, 2002



But that's not an advertising or even marketing problem, its an economic problem about the price that clears the market. If no-one really cares about bleach sufficiently to pay for it then you give it away. If that doesn't suffice then you make something they do care about (sufficiently to pay for).

I suspect that people do care about bleach in the sense that they care about clean linen, but that they don't care for CPG spamming on their idiot-boxes. There's nothing an idiot likes less that being called an idiot, didn't you know?

Are you really contending that the only solution to the problem of a warehouse full of product essentially indistinguishable from its competitors is to lie about its qualities to squillions of people in the hope that a percentage of them will be credulous enough to pay you for it?

Is marketing really just sophisticated bullshit?

Marketing is (correct me if I'm wrong) about: How do we let people know about us and our stuff?

How does traditional CPG marketing do this? Is it effective?
(Not being clever, I really don't know and want to know. My personal view of most such advertising is that it is counter-productive, but I recognise that the people paid zillions of simoleons for doing it aren't likely to say so. I just get on with my life and mostly ignore it.)

Coke for instance, I drink because I like the taste. I like the caffeine/sugar rush, and I hate Pepsi, it's just too chemical a taste for me. I also like the fact that Coke leaves your teeth feeling clean. (I dislike the knowledge that this is because its base is such a powerful degreaser that the people who haul it have to have a HazChem licence, but hey! life's not perfect.)

Anyway, the point is that Coke ads are completely wasted on me, for the most part (the small possibility exists of a new flavour being of passing interest, but history would deny even this, since most such efforts have been catastrophic failures) as are most competing product ads, since I LIKE COKE!.

I further suspect that most of the target markets of such ads are not too different from me.
Clay. So basically you claim that they're not broadcast?\

Not at all -- I think they _are_ broadcast, by which I mean that the reciprocity in the relationship between the average reader and the advertiser is very low. My mentioning those C(onsumer) P(ackaged) G(oods) campaigns on the Web was to contradict the idea that CPG can't use the Web.

I spoke with one of the orignal Cluetrain authors about this over the weekend, who said roughly "The problem with Gonzo and CPG is: how do you advertise products no one cares about? How do you sell bleach?"

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Clay. So basically you claimt hat they're not broadcast?

Do they spam?

Like Frank, I'm not game enough to register in order to find out . . . . .

Jeneane, it goes on your forehead.