With the collapse of Wall Street and Detroit, self-promotion is the only industry America has left. Owen Thomas [Gawker]
There are no more passionate or enterprising individuals in the world than Americans. No other people in the world have embraced the idea of self-promotion and self-aggrandizement with same level of enthusiasm, shamelessness, and let’s face it, success that even closely rivals the Americans. Over the centuries, a distinctly love/loathe relationship has formed between the public and its tireless marketers.
Ultimately, marketing is a push activity. Unless you make extraordinary products like iPod, or Maserati, or limited edition Nike shoes. In that case, you push in indiscernible ways to create demand, and then sit back and manage the pull. Or you could just make a kickass product and sell it. That’s how it used to be a couple of hundred years ago. Then marketers realized there’s money to be made by hype and mass-production. Then soon enough, everyone was doing it, because not doing it was like surrendering before the battle even starts. Advertising became the bugle that signaled the legitimacy of a product, and we accepted it as so.
After decades of marketing, spearheaded by the Madison Avenue machine and sponsored by its corporate clients, the symbiotic engine began to sputter. Consumers got tired of having products pushed to them by conglomerates. The previous marketing mix management and product line expansion gimmicks started to see cracks.
Then the information revolution descended upon us. Soon enough, everyone had a voice, and everyone started talking to everyone else. Corporations realized that they were no longer in charge of their brand image, and it became increasingly difficult to hide behind PR campaigns. Many disastrous marketing campaigns and ineffective “customer outreach” programs later, businesses looked to young, hip, and mostly self-educated and self-branded social media gurus for help. Soon enough, those guys sprang up everywhere, advising dinosaurous businesses on the proper management of their “social media presence”.
When the now deified Web 2.0 first caught everyone’s imagination, it was touted as the tool that would revolutionize the way we communicate. It was supposed to be democratic, horizontal, transparent, and authentic. In other words: everything that the corporate-advertising-complex wasn’t. Gradually, businesses caught on this myth, and started blogging, facebooking and twittering – a domain of activities reserved mainly for greasy college students only a few years back.
Most businesses do not understand social media networking. Actually, most of us don’t. But we do it anyway, because that’s the way to stay current. Remember when Facebook first surfaced and sparked debates as to whether someone that pulled your hair at summer camp twenty years ago really counted as a “friend”? Well, that argument is hardly relevant anymore. Now we don’t blink twice before adding our mothers to our profiles, because that still makes way more sense than “following” hundreds or thousands of strangers on Twitter.