Seth’s Head vs. The Long Tail

Over the weekend, Seth went on a rant about “the inanity of the American consumer.” In particular, he was incensed about the availability of a machine that can toast a muffin, heat a slice of ham, and cook an egg all at the same time. Godin:

“What kind of person, exactly, needs this…not only don’t people need it, it’s unclear that they even want it.

It seems as though we’ve marketed ourselves into a corner, where the only way to grow is to find increasingly narrow niches of decreasing utility.”

Seth, you fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia“, but only slightly less well known is this: “don’t assume the customer is just like me, the marketer.”

While this doesn’t precisely fall into the “long tail” case for the reasons mentioned here (primarily the amateur creation aspects), is this not still a case where there’s an opportunity to match up a customer with a product that has utility for that customer? It doesn’t matter if you or I think there’s “utility” for something like this. If this meets a need for someone, and that someone can find it via online search, and it can be created and delivered efficiently, why not?

Bonus rant: As noted above, the reference post talks about consumers. I won’t be able to say it better than Jerry Michalski, via Doc Searls, so I won’t try. Doc:

“First, we’re readers, viewers, listeners and (most of all) customers, not just ‘consumers.’ As Jerry Michalski put it long ago, a consumer is nothing more than a gullet whose only purpose in life is to gulp products and crap cash. Economically speaking, “consumer,” as the word is commonly used in the advertising business, is a linguistic fossil from the old industrial world where the only way big companies could reach potential customers was through media conduits that sluiced in one direction only, from the privileged few to the captive many. Except as the literal reciprocal of “producer,” “consumer” no longer holds much useful meaning, except where the supply side of advertising talks amongst itself. Worse, using it is risky and misleading. It disses a whole side of the marketplace that grows in power every time one customer links to another one.”

On Time, Attention, And Marketing

Tens of thousands of words have been spilled by Steve Gillmor and others on the subject of “attention” over the past few months. It’s an important subject, a fundamental one.

I think part of the issue behind why this idea has not gotten broader exposure is that getting to the core of answering the question “what is attention?” requires navigating deep thickets of prose and over-intellectualizing.

Example, from A Declaration of Gestural Independence:

Definition of attention: Attention is the substance of focus. It registers your interests by indicating choice for certain things and choice against other things…the establishment of value in the attention economy is a dual register of what one pays attention to and what one chooses to ignore.”

:cocks head:

My question: Why does this fundamental concept need to be spun up with layers of confusion and thick prose? Why not just call it what it is? How about this:

“Attention is another way of saying ‘time.'”

Attention is time, as in “where I choose to spend my time.” This is why this concept (whether we call it “attention” or “time” or what have you) is fundamental. It’s also why it applies, fundamentally, to marketing.

Interruption marketing doesn’t work anymore. (Although that’s not to stop big companies from throwing more money at it.) In a world where the customer has increasing ability to choose where to spend her limited hours in the day, an organization interested in becoming noticed by new prospective customers needs to give those customers a reason to spend their time with them. (The customer will spend money with them later. But only after they’ve spent the more precious thing, time.)

If this is true, how do you earn the time of your prospective customer? It may mean that “marketing” now needs to do things that:

  • Provide real value (in the form of information or insight)
  • Provide content that is creative and/or entertaining
  • Provide a venue and the opportunity for prospective customers to connect with others who have similar views or needs

This is still a nascent thought, and I’d love to bat this around. What do you think?

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Hey! We’re Feed Of The Day!

The folks over at Pluck have apparently chosen The Social Customer Manifesto as their feed of the day today, and have a nice writeup.

“The Social Customer Manifesto is all about figuring out what the customer is saying . . . and then actually listening to them. It’s a crazy idea, but in today’s always-on, conversational personal and business world, companies can do amazing things by listening to their customers (even if Clayton Christensen notes an issue with going overboard). To that end, I suggest you have a quick read of Christopher Carfi’s Manifesto.

Even helpful for those outside the Web 2.0 echo chamber. Maybe even more so.”

Thanks, Pluck!

The CEO Blogging Trail

Axel Schultze, CEO of BlueRoads, had the following answers to the questions I posed in this post. Schultze:

“Very good and valid questions. Some answers:

1) Also CEO’s are human beings and have peers. So executive blogging will find it’s peers.

2) The blog will not replace 1:1 connections and relations. But if a CEO like me has roughly 5,000 personal contacts and roughly 200,000 customer contacts, touching each and everybody in person every week is REALLY difficult.

3) Ghost-Written? No! While my press releases are prepared by PR agencies and news letters by marketing and other media by other people, at least my blog is my “normal voice” :-). And one can tell by my style, grammer and the little spelling errors here and there.


(n.b. Axel’s blog can be found here)

Point (2) is the gimme. And point (3) is spot-on.

Point (1), however, is the really interesting one. “Executive blogging will find its peers.” Hold that thought.

(context: I’m just off the plane, just back from Cambridge and Corante’s Symposium on Social Architecture. So, naturally, everything is getting filtered through that lens. More folks talking about CoranteSSA here.)

Blogs, of course, are social media. They let us connect, and converse, and interact in a human way.

Now, back to where we were. “Executive blogging will find its peers.” Hadn’t thought about the implication of that statement until I read Axel’s comment. When put through the “social” lens, what this means, to me at least, is that we’re going to start to see networks develop…visible networks…of executive bloggers. And what we’re going to see from there is the boardroom equivalent of the digital divide. One one side, we’ll see networks and clusters of interconnected executive bloggers (“peers”), who respect and challenge and publicly debate each others strategies, compliment and complement each others’ successes, and call each other out on their mis-steps.

On the flip side we’ll see the ossified companies, with their polished, impenetrable façades of business-as-usual.

Which side you think will be more successful in the long run?


Typepad’s Honor System

Barak Berkowitz, Typepad‘s CEO, just sent out a spot-on mea culpa regarding the service’s latest performance/availability mishaps. How are they compensating their customers for the inconvenience? It depends…Typepad is letting the customers decide how much they should receive for their trouble.

“We at Six Apart understand that you pay for TypePad and expect to receive superior performance in return. At times over the last several weeks, we have not provided that type of experience. We also know that some customers have been more heavily impacted than others. Therefore, we want to give you the choice of how Six Apart should compensate you for any inconvenience we have caused.

  • While the performance issues caused me some inconvenience I mainly found the service acceptable last month. Give me 15 free days of TypePad.
  • The performance issues made it very difficult for me to use the service on multiple occasions during the month.Give me 30 free days of TypePad.
  • The performance issues affected me greatly, making my experience unacceptable for most of the month.Give me 45 free days of TypePad.
  • I really wasn’t affected at all and feel I got the great service I paid for last month.Thank you for your offer, but please don’t credit my account.

We’d also love to hear any feedback from you about your recent experience with TypePad, and what we could have done to better communicate the situation and what we were doing to fix it.”

Nicely done. (Now you just need to keep the service up and running…)