Monday, January 30, 2006

The First Problem with Gonzo Marketing

Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices
Christopher Locke (2001)
Employment Market
My many working hours, months and days as a coffee server or barrista at the Second Cup Coffee Shop in the long demolished Kingston Centre on Princess Street in Kingston Ontario in the early nineties taught me a few things about marketing that carry me through the years to the present outlook that I maintain in the face of what these self-determined experts of internet marketing seek and wish to convince readers of. Namely, that marketing is dead. I do not believe it. Not yet.
Are human beings suddenly configured or wired differently due to technology? Do individuals suddenly process images and filter messages differently? Are associations and base needs somehow changed due to new technology? A search for an individual buyer of a product is still a fairly standard procedure if it is reworked back to the basic precept that an exchange is taking place between a buyer and a seller, be it a concept, a product, a service, or as of work and salary, as between employer and employee .
Work Search From Print to Net
For example, in 1993 when I arrived in Kingston I had no work, and had not even finished my degree, I was one credit away when I just said the hell with it. What did I know? And who did I know? Nothing and nobody. So survival was determined by a minimum standard of salary agreed to between an employee and a minimum standard of acceptable service to an employer who provides it. It remains a reciprocal commitment.
Similarly, an image, a tag line, or any other marketing device attached to the sale of a product is designed specifically to make a similar type of connection, at the subconscious level, with an individual consumer. Who remains the receiver of the message. The internet may be interfering with the average daily processing of images, taglines, and pitches, perhaps because it is diverting more and more attention away from mass media delivery streams where one size fits all. But the basic human nature of selective processing of incoming messages remains the same. So how has that relationship really changed in marketing? I am not convinced that it has. The idea that marketers must tailor their pitch to smaller and smaller segments of population may just more likely be explained simply that there are more and more varieties of products and services, more various economic scales of profit and loss, more diverse technologies, more services, and faster and faster methods by which to deliver a product or service, and a more competitive environment in terms of determination of perceptions of quality associated to those products or services.
Has that killed marketing? No I don't think so. I think it has made it smarter, better, more skilled at determining and maintaining perhaps shrinking and shrinking corners due to a multiplication of corners. That is not death. That is process reorientation. Remember it was not big-box stores that died in the dot-com crash. It was a bunch of internet marketers who oversold the potential harnesses that they had.
My job search in Kingston was of course facilitated by the local Whig Standard newspaper and want ads within and a daily preparation of CVs and cover letters, which necessitated a daily walk up and around to Kingston Centre Video Big Box Store to find the cheapest photocopies and the perpetual scrambling around for spare staples. I never got the idea that buying a stapler was necessary. In the same way, internet has certainly changed the job search patterns of seekers today. But for many reasons not related to changes in marketing principles, but perhaps unbelievably, I would estimate that job searches online necessarily require a seeker to process more diverse fields of messages and advertisements than a traditional paper-based search or walk around town, which is both healthy and fairly social, ever did. Think about it. How many engines and websites do you have to troll up and down to come up with a few reasonable employment prospects? Far more than one or two daily newspapers would require. How has that changed marketing? In my view it has just multiplied the numbers of opportunities for advertisers to send their messages to me about their products or services. And fairly cheaply. When you are actively searching for something you note quite a few more details and are likely to take in more associated messages.
Group Think
Congregational marketing in the physical human form is pretty well illustrated in the typical shopping mall. Which explains why things like dot-com crashes define the liquid from the dead. I was always fascinated to see how many hours people could basically sit in a food court and talk for hours, not necessarily shopping, but people watching, ruminating, jaw-boning, this was a primary human need that malls meet. The association is of course that group or community support network exists as an incentive to gather in throngs. This is something that mass marketing principles were born out of. Get them together as a group, give them a reason to feel comfortable and then offer them plenty of enticements and opportunities to consume products and services available in the vicinity. Are these physical tools to marketing dead? I do not think so. People remain drawn to parking lots the same ways and reasons for which they are usually also thronged with sea gulls. Something social as well as scrounging in the human condition makes malls a great success.
The physical marketing tools for designing bricks and mortar maximum profit yields in consumer shopping for example are the same treatments to which successful internet marketing sites perpetuate their profits. How has that killed marketing? Perhaps in some instances the pockets of consumers are smaller and smaller, but that adds another dimension. Connectedness technologically which technically appears to isolate consumer individuals in smaller and smaller groups. The mall is a great example of how feast and famine defines the sales cycles in such markets. Christmas and Easter were absolute pandemonium. And the rest of the year was muzak from Hell for most mall workers. But post Christmas and Easter rushes, there was great cull. A harvesting of the excess inventories. Endless pairs of shoes torn to shreds and dumstered. Stacks of books and paperbacks ripped to ribbons and tossed out. Coffee satchels which had expired their sell dates and packed away in the garbage. Such wastage remains a part and portion of the sales figures to indeterminant ends, especially as JIT has cleaned up a lot of the waste in retail sales, it has not eliminated it. The same proportions of sales marketing costs continue to steal the EAT from most business models. So how has the internet killed marketing? Especially if it is cheaper than print?
Secondary Marketing
Perhaps the secondary markets for many products are just more efficiently being addressed? As for brand image, there remain a fair number of products that do not react well to secondary market sales. But the internet has provided a full roster of services to address them. Locke addresses the needs of big business to measure and assess their marketing successes and the internet seems to more and more require registrations for even job ads browsing. It all seems fairly safe to say that the marketers are getting more and more loads of opportunities to track consumer profiles and spending than ever before. How has this killed marketing?

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