Sam Harrelson



Sam Harrelson

Circles and Cycles: Online Marketing’s Revolution



earth_sun050506.jpgToday is the last day of 2006 and tonight at midnight we’ll pass that spot in space and time in our planet’s revolution around the nearest star which people and places around the earth following the Gregorian Calendar mark as the beginning of a new year.

The calendar that we use to mark this new year is relatively new, dating back just about 450 years and based on the Roman calendar which is about 2200 years old. There are still older calendars, such as the many calendars of ancient Mesopotamia (the Assyrian calendar being my favorite) which are based on lunar cycles. There are numerous other calendars in use by many people on earth today, and this particular coordinate doesn’t mark the beginning of a new year on those.

What most of these calendars share in common is their emphasis on cycles and the implications of a once-dominant agrarian mode of life. We sowed, we reaped, we stored and we celebrated.

This cycle of the year carries over into our own online marketing existence. In most instances, we don’t have to wait an entire season to reap what we’ve sown in our own program’s ad buys, media spends or affiliate programs. In some cases, the ROS (Return on Sow… I just coined that!) happens within hours or days or in the course of a few weeks. Rarely do we have to wait months for the germination or even ripening of the fruits of our work in online marketing.

Back in October of 2004, Steve Rubel wrote the following during the launch of Firefox’s important and monumental ad in the NY Times…

Open source marketing is the future. Need proof? Study how the Mozilla Foundation is building momentum behind Firefox.

Mozilla today launched a community effort to secure enough funds to take out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times. The full-page ad will include the names of everyone who supports the campaign along with a message about the benefits/features of the awesome Firefox browser. An individual contribution of $30 will get your name included in the ad ($10 student rate). eWeek has more details.

However, that is not always the case, especially when we consider the seed-to-maturity time that some ideas need for their development and harvest. In some cases, thoughts, ideas or insights that we plant in fertile soil can take years before they are ready to reap.

Perhaps this is the case with the ideas of Cluetrain or even open source marketing. The idea has caught on, web2.0 has given the incentive and platforms such as widgets are allowing for the expression of open source marketing from marketers with Madison Ave budgets to affiliate marketers and merchants working with a small and limited budget.

These are exciting times in the history of messages, conversations, communication, media and marketing.

We may be passing the same point in space and time that we’ve passed over and over for the last four billion years, but something revolutionary is happening in our short lived and young species…

We are combining new technologies, new educational models, new sociological models, new psychological insights and a deeper understanding of how we communicate with each other (verbally, graphically or silently) as animals… and turning that mash into something different.

I don’t know what that “different” thing is yet, but it has something to do with open source marketing, technologies, lifestyles and experiences.

My favorite example? Beer (yes, I am brewing some… I’ll send samples on request… Cost Per Beer?). Ponder the history.

Here’s an interesting “8 Part List” from collaborativemarketing.com to ponder as we come closer to that point in our planet’s revolution around the nearest star…

These strategies are as sophisticated as the new markets themselves but a few principles are emerging.

1. BACK TO THE SOURCE Consumers are no longer happy to sit back and be fed a brand and its values. They want to interact with the ‘brand source’ in the same way that Linux programmers want to get their hands on the programming source code. That means giving consumers access to the brand and inviting them to co-create on branded projects. Open Source marketeers understand this and make it easy for customers to get involved with a brand and affect its direction, maybe even its values.

2. SPOT BRAND FANS The new breed recognise there is no point in ‘demanding back the source material’ because it is well and truly out there — in the public domain. And it’s not coming back. In fact, they look to put the brand source materials in the hands of the consumers, especially brand fans like George Masters. Then they sit back and watch the fireworks as communities create and innovate in ways that enlarge and enrich the community.

3. BE A BRAND HOST They know that that brand guardians are no longer relevant to the marketplace and that brand hosts are more in tune with the times. Today’s consumer wants to interact with big, exciting, sexy brands, but on their own terms. Brands can host the party and try and make it attractive to consumers but they must realise that the new consumer has a full diary and plenty of suitors. marketplaceWelcome_1 and that brand hosts are more in tune with the times.

4. ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME? The voice of the mass markets was a LOUD and BOOMING monologue. Which didn’t leave a lot of time to listen to anyone. Open Source communities are all about conversation and dialogue. Open Source Marketing means listening really closely to the rumours and whispers that bring the new marketplace alive.

5. GET REAL (LIKE SCOBLE) Authenticity is one of the most valuable currencies in the transparent marketplace. So human, friendly voices (like Robert Scoble) are particularly effective. Corporate speak and PR flack is just ignored. And it’s no good just pretending. YOU WILL GET RUMBLED. This can be a difficult leap of faith for companies who have been used their brands like shields, to keep the world at bay.

6. YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE CLEVERER THAN YOU Open Source marketeers understand that their customers are clever, cleverer than themselves and their agencies. So they try and tap into this intelligence to help grow their brands. By the way, this includes the obssessive customers who make a racket about every last product detail or development and constantly get in touch with leftfield ideas. They are probably the most valuable.

7. LET GO Open source marketeers understand, most importantly, that people are now in control of the brands that for so long have been wrapped up and locked in corporate safes. Brands are no longer proprietary and companies need to adapt to that reality. There’s no point in calling in the lawyers to try and change things back. The world has moved on.

8. OPEN MINDS Open Source marketeers also know this new environment is not as dangerous as it sounds. They know the greatest barriers are the mental ones built up during the reign of mass marketing and TV.

By setting some rough parameters and then challenging consumers to get involved, or co-create, they are already seeing some fantastic results.

Here’s to a happy revolution!



Posted: 12.31.2006

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