Marketing Triptych

Considering Chaos

The web is the web. People do new things around here every single day: They open new groups, start new projects, release new applications, publish new posts, connect with new people. It’s ever-expanding, ever-remixing, ever-renewing itself. It’s a chaotic structure in a positive sense in that it’s working – but we’re not really sure how it works, why it works, and in which direction it is heading.

And yet there are some people claiming to be in the know. They call themselves “experts” in Social Media or Web 2.0 or Viral Marketing, and they follow a million people on Twitter they have never even heard of before. Do they always know more than everybody else?

No, but they charge for it. Think about that the next time you’re writing out a check to an expert. Or you open his “free report”.

There ain’t no such Thing as a Free Report

So we decided following back this marketing guru on Twitter and he sends us an automated direct message, pointing us to his “Free Report”. The problem is, if there’s no free lunch, there ain’t no such thing as a free report, either.

By hitting the link, we’re paying him with our attention. By giving away our e-mail address, we’re paying him with our personal data. By reading his report, we’re paying him with our time. And in the end, the main question is, who’s winning in this transaction: The guru that infiltrates our brain, or we, by gaining new insights?

Permission Marketing, Customer Side

Thanks to Seth Godin, marketers nowadays will pretty much leave us alone, if we don’t ask them to bomb us. That’s great, but in the age of information overload, this often requires one further step: Disconnection.

Disconnection from the stream of words some stupid bird twitters into our ears. Disconnection from the torrent of posts that show up in our RSS feeds. Disconnection from the myriad messages that arrive in our e-mail inbox or that pop up in our iChat each and every day.

No need for hard feelings here: Just because we subscribed to a podcast and gave someone permission to talk to us, it doesn’t mean we can’t withdraw it. If the marketer sucks, we’ll just throw him out. It’s more: Even if he doesn’t suck, but he doesn’t enrich our life either, we’ll throw him out. Permission Marketing, Customer Side means: We decide whom to give our time – and for how long. In the depths of the interwebs, far too many permission marketers are waiting for us with stuff we don’t really need to know about.

Note: This post is part of a series called “Idle Musings”, that I will be publishing here every other Tuesday. I decided to put these three musings together in one post – to get rid of the marketing thoughts (from a customer perspective), that had accumulated in my head lately.


  1. Near and dear to my heart Fabian, and a great post. The true shame of it all is that we (collectively) now see marketing as part of life. We (most of us) don’t even question it anymore, and we’re still inclined to put our faith in the earnest intentions of those who offer their ‘free reports’.

    What if we stopped paying attention to marketers? Would we all of a sudden be deficient in some way? Are we incapable of fulfilling our wants/needs without some clever marketer telling us what we ought to value?

    I’m thinking not…

  2. Very good stuff to contemplate here Fabian and I tend to agree. I have nothing against marketing at all and I don’t want to in any way demonize it. It can be a very, very good thing. However, problems arise when we get caught up in chasing someone elses goals. When we see someone who has 1,000 Twitter followers so we think we need to do the same. When we think we need to keep up and comment on every blog. When we look at what someone has written or is doing and we think, ‘wow that’s awesome,’ but don’t question whether it would be the awesome choice for us.

    Here’s a very interesting article on marketing and how it can be used for charitable causes. I actually agree with a lot of what is said here. I found this through a tweet that Greg Mortensen sent out:

  3. Jeb & Nate, thanks for your comments! I think what’s most important is just to do what WE care about and think about marketing later. Also, buy the stuff you need, but don’t get fooled into buying by others…
    Thanks for the link, Nate, I’ll check it out now!

  4. Fabian, you’re right – our posts coincide with each other pretty nicely! If there’s one thing I hate the most about social media, it’s the “gurus” and “geniuses” that have begun to plague it in alarming numbers.

    The most beautiful thing about being in the thick of this new technology that is significantly shaping the way we communicate is the fact that NOBODY is an expert yet. We’re figuring it all out together. We’re trying new things, seeing amazing results and making major mistakes. Not many generations get to be privy to such a radical transformation of the way we receive information, let alone be an integral part of it.

    Claiming that you already know everything and have mastered these evolving channels before anyone else just dilutes the power of what is happening by making it fake, forced and annoying.

  5. Sarah, thanks for your thoughts! It’s good to see different approaches in PR as the one you certainly stand for!
    Concerning the “information revolution” (to give it a name), I think there have been already some in the 20th century (radio, TV). But the fascinating thing right now is that everybody can be a sender with a click of a button. This really mixes everything up, and I think you’re right to say that nobody really knows yet where this will lead us.

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