Don’t trust bloggers

So…today I’m in a meeting discussing an online venture and the topic turns to blogging.

Of course, I say that it would be a great addition to an online portfolio. But one of the meeting’s participants was completely turned off by the concept of blogs as a marketing and information tool.

“I think people want to get information from a “real website”. I don’t trust all these Joe Blows ranting their opinion on blogs.”

Keep in mind that this person is intelligent, keeps on top of current trends, and is fairly tech-savvy. Of course, I don’t think he knew that a “blogger” was in the room.

And everywhere, it’s the same. The other day in South Bend after my blogging presentation, a member of the audience raised her hand and asked me,

“I don’t mean to be rude, but what kind of person would want to be a blogger or read a blog?”

Blogging has gotten a reputation similar to infomercials and telemarketing. Whereas marketers know the value of these applications when they’re done right, the masses see them as ways to sell Ginsu Knives and interrupt your dinner. And now it’s the same with blogs. The term “blog” to John Q. Public means “my-space-political-rant-here’s-what’s-happening-with-my-cats-unabomber-manifesto.”

What’s the cause? Well, there ARE a lot of weird hacks in the blogosphere who are ranting about an obscure opinion and/or telling 3 people what they just had for lunch. These people are loud and their version of “blog” has become the public perception.

But, in reality, blogs are a way to connect with a niche community. There are lots of bloggers who have dedicated focused communities. They are the new town square where everyone has a voice. If you’re wanting to reach a narrowly defined market who can communicate with you on a two-way street about their needs, a blog is one answer. (but not the only answer)

I’ve said it before….(and probably said it best here)…that blogs are not mainstream and are still a long way from being mainstream. And maybe that’s where they need to be.

But as “social media” grows (not just blogging), we’ll see people gathering information from all these web communities and using it. Instead of one mass media message being sent out from one source, people will pick and choose the information that matters to them from hundreds of sources.

And to marketers and advertisers who are despondent about the fact they’re losing the ability to reach an audience through media, the reality is the exact opposite. There’s a better opportunity. Instead of wasting dollars sending a message to a mass audience that consists of 99% of people who aren’t interested and don’t care…just to reach the 1% that do, social media offers the ultimate in pinpointing a targeted market and being able to deliver information that consumers are willing to receive.

William Henry Harrison

In my main keynote, I take the audience through a series of three essential elements for successful marketing. The first element, “Marketing begins with the Product” is usually met with a collective “Duh” from the room. But so many organizations skip this step. Many start-ups don’t even consider marketing in the early stages of product development.

The main question that you need to answer before you do anything else is: Do you have something that people want?

If the answer is NO, then all the “marketing” in the world isn’t going to help you.

Of course, if you’re the government, these rules don’t seem to apply. Current case-in-point: the new dollar coins. In case you haven’t heard, the US Mint is producing a new dollar coin that features all the presidents in the order they served. A new presidential coin will be rolled out every three months until 2016. It’s modeled on the 50 state quarter program and the Mint is betting the bank on it. (Ha!)

Bu these coins will be a flop. And there are several reasons. Aside from the fact that the portraits on the front of the coins are hideous, the main reason is that we’ve been through this twice before. I was given Susan B. Anthony dollars as “gifts” and told not to spend them. In the first year of circulation, I only saw one Sacagawea Golden Dollar as they were being handed out as trinkets by a bank at a home show. I did get nine of them once at a post office vending machine and finally had to take them to a bank to get “real money” since no one would take them from me for payment.

It looks like the Mint would have the sense to see that a dollar coin isn’t something that Americans want. If you produced something that customers had flatly rejected twice before, would you try a third time? The word on the street/blogosphere is that we’ll never see a successful US dollar coin until we eliminate the paper dollar, which isn’t likely.

Of course, the third time may be the charm. Since the project has to go on for the next ten years to get all the presidents, the public may accept them. Or in 2014, I may be trying to find a way to spend Calvin Coolidge at some place other than the post office.

Bonus Trivia:
—Jimmy Carter has to die by 2014…(he will be eaten by wolves in 2012)…in order for the program to keep working and have the Reagan coin come out. The coins have to be issued in the same order as the presidential terms and a president has to have been dead for two years to be on a coin.
—Yes. Grover Cleveland gets two.

Habenero Ice Cream

I love it when I’m right.

I predicted a few months ago that the C-level masses were going to take the concept of The Long Tail and corrupt it.

And today, I received an email newsletter from the CEO of a major online media CMS. And while he was in the neighborhood of being right, he was leading his readers in the wrong direction. I don’t think he realizes that most of his customers still want the majority of their market.

You can’t sell the idea of niche markets to mass media. They don’t match up. It’s not about keeping customers longer and having them more involved. It’s about finding the FEW people who are searching for something to be a dedicated fan of.

The long tail is a great place to find customers, but you have to sell more than vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. You can’t be the place where “everyone is going to find something they like”. You have to be the place where people search you out because you’re the only place that sells what they are passionate about.

And that takes courage for a business to do. It’s much safer in the meaty left side of the tail. It’s a little riskier over in the sparse right-hand side, but the reward potential is much higher.

Michiana Blogging Presentation

While getting there felt like this, I had a great time delivering the “Blogs/Social Media – Marketing as Conversation” presentation to the Michiana chapter of the American Advertising Federation yesterday.

I told the group I would have the presentation on the blog for them to download. Anyone who would like to can click here to get the PDF of the powerpoint.

Also…here are links to most of the websites and blogs that I discussed during the presentation.
Technorati
The Long Tail
2005 Pew Internet data
Xanga
My Space
You Tube
Flickr
The FireHouse
Coke Zero “blog”
Robert Scoble
Miller Brew Blog
Google Blog
Mark Cuban
GM Fastlane
Dooce
Shotgun Marketing Blog
The Cluetrain Manifesto

And a reminder to everyone that I am available to speak to conventions, trade shows, private corporate events, etc. visit my speaking page for more information.

Guerilla Stupidity

So many things to say about the marketing campaign/terror scare in Boston.

First off, I’m a huge fan of unconventional low cost marketing, but I hate “guerrilla marketing” with a passion.

The original concept of guerrilla marketing was a good idea. And that original idea is still good. But today, guerrilla marketing has degraded into dumping trash with a logo on it around an area or doing things that look like they’re gathering attention, but have no impact on sales/awareness/etc.

Jaffe has the best quote:

“Bottom line is that we’ve become so desperate to “break through the clutter” that words like “viral”, “buzz” and “guerilla” are quickly turning into the equivalent of shooting gerbils through cannons…and I think we know how that story ends.”

This Cartoon Network campaign reminds me of one they did about a year ago with inside jokes /catchphrases from some of its original programs and/or characters. I didn’t like that campaign at all. It had the same basic problem as this one. If you’re not already a viewer of these programs, you have no idea what you’re looking at. Only the present “customers” of these shows know that you’re marketing to them. There’s no way to increase your market share. It’s like advertising food to people on Thanksgiving afternoon.

Need proof? These lighted characters had been in place for nearly TWO WEEKS across Boston before someone noticed them. That’s really grabbing the attention of the consumer.

If the national news scare hadn’t focused the attention on the show, it would have been a useless campaign like the other one. But I would say that even though there’s an outward contrite attitude being projected by Turner Broadcasting, they’re elated. It’s more buzz than they could have ever expected.

You might say that’s proof that the guerrilla marketing worked. Sure, it did this time, But I really don’t think raising the terror level of a major U.S. metro should be a part of your marketing plan.