Robert Scoble has an insightful "Viral Marketing Manifesto" triggered by MSN Found's viral marketing campaign landing like a lead balloon.The section below particularly jumped out to me. He hits the nail on the head around the essence of why blogging arose and how its ethos impact marketing.
It comes down to this: for many, we've moved from seeking prosperity as a primary motivator to seeking authenticity and integrity.
We've moved away from spitting out polished thirty-second pitches to dropping the burden of a facade. We want to be accepted for ourselves (or even better, reach a juncture where praise or criticism is besides the point), have richer conversations, heartfelt connections and reclaim our voice.
Below Robert says we were disgusted with how corporations were behaving. Maybe that's half of the equation. In addition, I was disgusted with how I was behaving (inauthentically) and the dissonance finally gave way.
You've gotta go back and understand where blogging came from. We were disgusted with how corporations were behaving. Blogging started really taking off after the dotcom boom and bust. It started taking off after WorldCom and other corporate scandals.
It started taking off because corporations seemed to only care about themselves and didn't seem to be listening anymore to anyone around them including the government or even other corporations.
It started taking off because we are always being marketed to, but rarely listened to. There are so many commercial messages raining down on our heads that we wanted to have our own way to talk back to the world. A way to push back on the marketing and the lies and the hype. Look at last night's comments on this very blog. People don't like it when I hype something up. They want to be in control and hate it when those of us in big companies try to manipulate them.
Why do you think so many people have been cheering on the blogging movement at Microsoft? At least now there's a start of a conversation between the people who work at companies and the rest of the world.
So, viral campaigns need to show they are sensitive to those values. - Robert Scoble, "Viral Marketingn Manifesto"
In my (very long) essay, I attempt to chart out the progression of values (and define the term value-memes), types of media (broadcast/passive to interactive to participatory) and the business landscape since 1995 and how that's changed and changing people -- and thus markets and marketing.
Here are a few relevant sections from the essay below:
Machiavelli echoes, “I believe that we are successful when our ways are suited to the times and circumstances, and unsuccessful when they are not.” Over the course of history we’ve steadily moved from an egocentric to an ethnocentric to an increasingly world-centric perspective. Our minds cannot help but be informed and influenced by the memes of our time.
The historical evidence is clear: New times produce new thinking.
In an early age we found refuge in clans and safety in a threatening world by awakening the capacity to sense the spirits and placate them through magic. New times, new thinking.
When the magic and ritual become stifling, we escaped by asserting a raw sense of self and slaying the dragons that lurk in the dark. The powerful individual sought to dominate kith, kin and nature. New times, new thinking.
When chaos and anarchy then reigned supreme, we sought meaning and found peace of mind in the absolute and unquestioned order of a Higher Power or rightful authority, the organizing principle greater than any individual or group. New times, new thinking.
When that absolute order became oppressive and repressive and we grew wearing of waiting for future rewards, individualists challenged the authorities and tried to create the abundant ‘good life’ here and now. New times, new thinking.
When this progress-oriented materialism failed to bring happiness, we became lonely. Then we wanted to rediscover human feelings, recapture spirituality, and find ‘ourselves.’ New times, new thinking. – Don Beck and Christopher Cowan, from Spiral Dynamics
New times, new thinking. I’m just getting the hang of the rhythm, and whoa - we’ve come to an abrupt halt in history. It’s now 1996 – the year that Spiral Dynamics was published. Beck and Cowan probably submitted their final manuscript before Netscape went public on August 9, 1995. And certainly before the November 1995 launch of Fast Company. And the blogosphere wasn’t even an apple in our eye yet. SoMa had cheap rent space and my mom hadn’t heard of Sand Hill Road yet. The twin towers were intact and media was the bailiwick of hip New Yorkers (or is that Silicon Alley) not scraggly “citizen journalists”. I hadn’t joined the Internet revolution, er, I mean industry as yet - unless you count being addicted to online communities. Nor had I yet been married…or divorced. Ah, 1996. That’s the same year that Cindy Olsen joined as VP of Corporate Affairs in charge of Enron’s 401K program – oh so many light-years before she would “diversify” her own personal holdings and withdraw her millions. Geez, perhaps everything happened after 1996.
I skip ahead in essay to this section: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Here's What We've Set Out To Do:Identify the values of the revolution and the people who are building companies that embody them: a commitment to merge economic growth with social justice, democratic participation with tough-minded execution, explosive technological innovation with old-fashioned individual commitment. – Handbook of the Business Revolution – Manifesto, Fast Company, November 1995 (premiere issue)
I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones.(1991) – Linux Torvalds
Notes: This was the launch of Linux. – from Wikipedia.org
The Industrial Age also ushered in the rise of the corporation and the values of the “American Dream” – of achievement, status, prestige, and the tangible rewards of working hard and prospering by our own toil and ingenuity. Henry Ford is often credited for the introduction of efficient and formal processes – including the concept of "managerial” capitalism we’re familiar with today – but the wheels of standardization and efficiency were being set into motion beforehand. By the turn of the 19th century “William Sellers knew that the end of the hand-tooled machine age was nigh. So he grabbed the manufacturing elite by the nuts and bolts and dragged them into the mass production era.” Sellers evangelized for the standardization of the screw as well as other machine parts that had previously been the “one-of-a-kind” customized handiwork of machinists. Standardization ushered in the assembly line, Industrial Age goods and eventually turned our collective attention towards value-added customization of the service and knowledge kind.
In many ways, business as we knew it throughout the 20th century didn't witness disruptive abrupt upheavals until a big wrench was throw into the factory cog.
And that wrench was a new medium called the Internet. The Internet marked the first time we all had access to a global warehouse of information at our fingertips. We could now connect to practically any other person in the world. From its origins in sharing information and research within universities and scientific labs, the ‘Net quickly was recognized as a distribution platform where anyone with a business plan on a napkin could turn a buck. Frictionless commerce! Disintermediation!, the prophets of the New Economy extolled. Fragmented marketplaces were now easily coalesced at sites like eBay and Craig’s List.
The fabric of the World Wide Web lies in its hyperlinks - the lateral linking structure that connects one document to another. Finally, one didn’t have to create every last line of content – but instead simply reuse, reference and link to other documents including those you didn’t “own” yourself. If it was out there on the ether, in the ‘cloud’, anyone could connect to it. The act of clicking on a site and following links to other pages and sites even on its own yielded far more interactivity and user control than sitting on the couch watching TV or sitting coffee skimming the morning paper ever did. And interactivity could go well beyond merely surfing. Passionate users of online communities such as The Well, Prodigy, Compuserve and AOL catalyzed the explosive growth of Internet communities in all its variations - forums, discussion groups and email lists. From my early obsession, The Dead Runners Society to any community of interest – no matter how esoteric, eccentric or absurb – you could easily find and communicate with kindred spirits and like-minded folks that shared your passion.
The decentralized, distributed nature of the massively global network eventually alters the way you look solving nearly any complex problem, I noted for myself and the visionaries, engineers and financiers around me. Small Pieces, Loosely Joined describes both the resilient nature of the system design and a whole new approach to thinking. From Napster’s massive decentralized architecture to The Wisdom of Crowds, complex adaptive systems thinking both intrigued and threatened existing value-memes.
The competitive pace of the New Economy meant that creative destruction was wired, equilibrium was tired – even in old lumbering behemoths. The Silicon Valley culture of “ideas trump titles” was exported worldwide. Top-down procedures and bureaucratic processes were scrapped because they were hourglasses in an era running on Internet time. “24/7” entered our vocabulary. Fail early, fail often. Business plans morphed faster than software code could be cranked out. Cowboy coding: Whip it out and lasso it together pronto. A scalable website meant it wouldn’t be obsolete and architecturally brittle before the next trade show or VC pitch.
In the Valley's heyday, the cliché was that engineers and programmers got up in the morning and went to work for Silicon Valley, not for Intel or HP or Fairchild. Programmers traded tips and secrets with one another because they were more interested in solving problems than in protecting their competitive advantage. In the same way, the scientific machinists [William] Sellers was appealing to were devoted to something bigger than their individual companies, something you might as well call "technological progress." – James Surowiecki, from "Turn of the Century", Wired, Jan 2002
Allegiance wasn’t to your company, but to your guild – or, ahem, to the start-up with the biggest foozball table, on-site masseuse and the car thrown in as a signing bonus. Work was supposed to be fun and fast and staid and rigid hierarcracies were the last place freshly-minted MBAs were headed. The spoils were to be shared too, and more egalitarian stock options made sure that there was an aura of ownership to employment.
Personally, I was enthralled by the fast-paced ride recounted in eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capital at Work and sincerely gripped by business plan writing and IPO prospectus reading.
December 1999: Later – maybe next summer – we’ll have the wedding out in the mountains. Right now, the courthouse downtown’s fine. I’ve got to start this new job as CTO of a venture-backed start-up.
The New Economy wasn’t just about calculating out how many millions our stock options would be worth when we IPO’ed and photocopying and distributing Fast Company articles. And then again it was about calculating out how many millions my stock options would be worth. I could always do what I’m really meant to do…later.
Many of us were on the life deferment plan that Randi Komisar’s timely book (disguised as a entrepreneurial guide), The Monk and the Riddle, spoke about. But things aren’t ever as cut and dry as they appear.
While the year 2000 marked the peak of my “orange” period (be patient with the color scheme), at the exact same time I considered Rachel Carson my hero, belonged to Greenpeace, ran a regional “progressive” women’s e-zine as a side venture and led a biweekly breakfast “business and consciousness” roundtable where we’d chat about the thoughts of Peter Senge, Dee Hock, Margaret Wheatley and Anita Roddick.
The infamous RIAA versus Napster case was the classic portrayal of two worlds, or two value-memes, colliding. Pitted mano a mano: we can win this game only if we own the content against just let us share and we’ll see what emerges down the road.
It was a heady toxic concoction: one part ‘change-the-world’ and one part ‘fuck the establishment’ with one part ‘yeah, a condo in the Alps would be great’ with a dash of hubris thrown in. It was bound to explode.
Enron and Worldcom are simply larger manifestations of the sordid underside of the New Economy and of the business world I witnessed daily around me. One too many Concorde flights finally burst the bubble. Disillusionment and dissolution ran rampant. A dot-com veteran – once the darling of the business community – is now an overnight pariah. Friends still, the CEO and the CFO pass on my offer of coming with me to see Startup.com at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s not a matter of having time to sit through a movie now – it’s far too close to home. The CEO, a relocated Los Angelan, is certain our tale makes an intensely dramatic screenplay but being shell-shocked he doesn’t have the wherewithal to bother. I wonder whether the founder, whom had been millionaire before plowing his money into company #2, regrets abandoning the playwriting he pushed aside.
For some the existential questions began when they were no longer catnapping in cots in the server room (ok, I slightly exaggerate) but were filing unemployment claims. For some, they arose when they cashed in their founders stock in the nick of time and realized they now had the millions to do practically anything they wanted if they only knew what that was. It was hard to find a ‘knowledge worker’ or ‘creative class’ member that was totally unaffected by the Nasdaq market crash and the tech economy downturn. But there were plenty upcoming opportunities to pause and reconsider our lives - including September 11th and its aftermath.
I moved to Silicon Valley in 2002 when everyone else was in mass exodus (no, not that Exodus - their empty buildings still stand off Highway 101). It no longer reeked of the get-rich-quick valley of 1999. A mature sobriety was in the air. The frontier spirit of Po Bronson’s Nudist on the Last Shift is replaced with the reflective questing of his ensuing What Should I Do With My Life? Something was bound to come out of this shift in mood. I yearned for authentic energy of possibility and self-expression of the Bay Area. As an entrepreneur I was chatting with just this past Saturday recounts this is one of those rare places on earth where people can relate to why on earth you choose to forgo a paycheck in one of the priciest places on earth in order to pursue a dream.
The Buddha advises: Forgo everything that you have thought meaningful, significant, up to now. It’s one thing to follow Mr. Buddha out of your own volition, but everything that I had thought meaningful and significant up until 2001 had simply vanished. Aldous Huxley is said to have remarked that when his house burned down he was overcome with the odd sensation of freedom. I wish I could say that the freedom to be myself drifted in effortlessly like a raven’s feather into my life but it was like a granite boulder triggering an avalanche careening down the side of a hill.
[The complete essay is at evelyn.jot.com - sign in with username and password: morespace]