My Ambitions as a Rider

What follows is an outline of an argument.

1. Marketing is broken.

Even the most jaded of marketers seem willing to admit that something is amiss. The disjointedness of modern marketing is not simply a result of the economic downturn.

Indeed, it may be hard to remember that far back, but that disjointedness was there even two or three years ago: back in the glory days, when marketers crammed convention floors, watered-down drink in hand, resting easy in the knowledge that the money would flow and all they really need do was find a mistress for the evening.

I stood in all of that squalor — booth after booth after booth filled with thousands of dead-tree materials that would never be read — overcome by the pure decadence of it all. Only one solution existed: scotch. Single malt. Bottles of it. But I’m getting off track here.

2. The ghost in the machine is broadcast.

If you read that last article of mine (you did read my last article, right?), you were right there when I said that the ghost in the machine is broadcast.

The lynchpin of the whole shootin’ match is interchangeability. Modern marketing was born in the fires of the industrial revolution, and one metaphor ruled those days — the assembly line. The beauty of the line is the interchangeability: One man drops, get another man. So it is with marketing: One 24- to 27-year-old who drives a Volkswagen drops, get me another one. We’ve got a marketing message to send here!

Do you know how I know that we must be on to something big with this one? No one can see an alternative. Go ahead, ask a marketer: “Hey, Jim, what’s say you no longer craft a marketing message and strategically place it in front of the right people at the right time in the right way. What would you do?” You know what you’ll get — utter amazement that you could be so stupid as to suggest such an idiotic idea. I mean, what would they do? That is what they do. Well, at least, it’s what they should do, right? Wrong.

3. Marketing’s ineffectiveness leads to a folding together of sales and marketing.

So what happens when all of marketing’s effectiveness gets chucked out the window and everyone knows it except for the marketers? Easy: Executive management suddenly begins to believe that marketing and sales are essentially the same thing. Do you know places like this? I do. You can barely tell the difference between the sales force and the marketing folks. And here’s the best part: When an economic downturn hits, the marketing guys get fired. Why? Because in the world of sales, their numbers suck.

4. Marketing without a message? Huh?

What’s a marketer to do? Abandon the broadcast model. Abandon the message. Hell, abandon the ship. And let the fun begin.

Paradigm shifts are funny things. Not ha-ha funny, but funny like: If everyone sees them coming, they’re not paradigm shifts. So that last “paradigm shift” we had (you know, the “new economy” crap) — yeah, it wasn’t one. And the idea that broadcast is useless and messages should be abandoned? Well, watch the marketers break into a cold sweat — oh my god what in the name of all that is holy are we supposed to do now, none of this makes sense and no one gave me any training on this and I’ve been doing this for 30 years (which, by the way, is NOT a long time — 3 million years, that’s a long time), and how are we supposed to believe you if you can’t even tell us how to measure such things or what comes next…

Aha! There it is — the leading edge of a paradigm shift. Fear, the air filled with mortality, failure having its way. An entire industry dragged down by despair — and none of the old answers seem to work — but if we can just tweak those methods a bit, surely we can make this baby fly. Yup, that’s her — a paradigm shift.

5. My Ambitions as a Rider

This is where we go from here: rap music, heavy drinking, and fast cars. Helicopters circling half moons. Traffic jams pushing suburbanites to the edge of sanity. As if some two-headed dragon is rearing its head at the edge of the city. Clouds of doom have gathered, and the masses huddle in houses of shame.

And then voices come forth from the wilderness, voices speaking with genius, genius in its original sense — something that fully inhabits the spirit of a place. Speaking with genius is an honest act — a movement that always takes us to our “cliff edge” of comfort. Surely, there are voices like this within your corporation.

Step One: Start a Blog

This is where it begins. Start a blog. Even if you don’t really know why or how.

A blog is a Web log — a daily log of thoughts, links, commentary — a conversation with the larger community of blogs. To see what’s going on, see these:

Step Two: Become an Outlaw

Say anything of consequence. Be dangerous. Avoid any statement that says “Buy our stuff” — unless you admit right up front that money is what you really care about. Most important, speak in your voice — not your corporation’s. Remember: Genius inhabits a specific place — namely, you.

Step Three: Let Everyone Speak

Give several employees corporate-sponsored blogs.

Be sure to pick disgruntled, creative types. If they’re unhappy with their job, even better — it will give the whole movement credibility.

And I see my article word count is pushing the limit… So as I go, did anyone catch the Tupac reference? More later.

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