Reader Steve MacLaughlin (you can visit his blog here) contributed this review of Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices, which sounds like an interesting followup to The Cluetrain Manifesto. Whether micromarketing of this sort really takes off will depend chicken-and-egg-like on whether a few companies escape being annoying and actually get people interested in what they have to offer.
Christopher Locke, one of the co-conspirators of the best seller The Cluetrain Manifesto, has again set off to teach companies how to talk, not just offer lip-service, to their customers. In Gonzo Marketing: Winning through Worst Practices, Locke takes on the myths and monuments of marketing armed new ideas and a razor sharp wit. Buckle up. Hold on. Mr. Locke is going to take you on a wild ride to the new world of marketing.
While the book's frenzied style will be compared to that of Hunter S. Thompson, I view the book instead as the first real book written in hyperlink-style. Jumping all over the map and all over the mind in search of gonzo marketing. Scrolling from idea to author to tactic and back again around the horn again.
Locke devotes a portion of the book to a refresher course in The Cluetrain Manifesto?s teachings: Markets are conversations. The Web is a micromarket made up of individuals. Your mass market mind tricks won't work on us. Gonzo Marketing picks up from there with a deeper examination of how companies must understand how micromarkets operate.
Locke accomplishes this by giving readers a detailed examination of the evolution of current marketing thought. The experts and evangelists range from Marshall McLuhan to Noam Chomsky to Sergio Zyman and Seth Godin. I stopped counting books and articles Locke mentions or dissects when it hit 32. Gonzo Marketing is quick to point out when grand ideas, like Godin's "Permission Marketing," were nothing more than underhanded tactics to send us spam.
What Locke pushes forward instead is this notion of gonzo marketing. Gonzo marketing "is marketing from the market's perspective. It is not a set of tricks to be used against us. Instead, it's a set of tools to achieve what we want for a change." No more tricks. No more schemes. No more mass market messages.
Gonzo Marketing also explains the evolution of the micromarket. Mass production created the need for mass markets. But globalization has been cutting the mass market into smaller and smaller pieces for many years now. The rapid proliferation of the Internet has only increased the growth of these micromarkets. While only global giants were once exposed to the power of micromarkets now companies of every shape and size must learn to deal with them.
The bad news for companies is that micromarkets are here to stay. As Locke puts it, "The web is a non-stop planet-spanning celebration. And we ain't goin' back in the box." The good news is that companies can be active participants in these micromarkets. But Locke isn't talking about "hashbrowned or refried databases" but instead "genuinely social social groupings." Micromarkets are "collections of people, communities joined by shared interests." And the big catch is that you need to belong to these groups to have a conversation with them.
This all sounds very 1960s commune-esk. And some readers may quickly label Locke's ideas as being as foolhardy as those he criticizes himself. But the evidence of micromarkets in action are all around. Internet chat rooms allow micromarkets to flourish and communicate like never before. Interested in rare coinage from the ancient world? There's a micromarket and somewhere people are talking about it, and telling people where to buy the best Tiberius Aureus Tribune penny. Online personal Web logs, also called blogs, allow micromarkets to share ideas, discuss new products, and to speak their mind in a way that traditional journalism never allowed for. Think, Oprah Winfrey's Book Club x 50 million and growing. Get the picture
Locke points to companies like Ford Motor Company, Delta Airlines, Intel, and Bertelsmann who are already reaching out to micromarkets. In February 2000 Ford announced that it was giving each of its 350,000 employees a computer and Internet access, and it didn't take long for those other companies to follow suit. Sure, Ford wants to put technology in its people's hands, but "the real deal is that Ford has unleashed 350,000 independent and genuinely intelligent agents to fan out online and listen carefully." First people start listening, then they start talking.
Gonzo Marketing doesn't tell companies they can't market to customers -- but that they need to radically rethink how they communicate. Before the automobile, the transcontinental railroad was the only easy way to get to the west coast. Before the Internet, mass marketing was the only easy way you could communicate on a global scale. And the railroads of old were just as inefficient and costly as the bloated marketing budgets of today.
Where as Cluetrain described the disease in detail, Gonzo Marketing concludes with a cure for companies to begin using. While Locke often sounds anti-big business, he notes that it is these larger companies who have the best advantage in making the early "transition from traditional marketing to more intimate micromarket relationships." They can begin to experiment with gonzo marketing by skimming a little bit off the top of their massive advertising budgets. Companies need to value their employee?s individual interests, and to find ways to nurture those interests. Allow people to go out and be ambassadors for your company, even if their interests have nothing to do with what the company is selling. People are more likely to talk to people with whom they share common interests than to corporate talking heads that share no common ground. Think about it.
Gonzo Marketing makes for great reading because it gets the gears in your mind turning. Everyone says their employees are their best advertisers. What if you really put that kind of attitude into action? Taken individually, micromarkets may seem insignificant, but collectively they have the power to move mountains. Locke concludes Gonzo Marketing with instructions for those pioneers that want to make first contact with micromarkets: "Hook up, connect, co-create, procreate. Redeploy. Foment joy. Brothers in arms, sisters of Avalon, champions of the world get to work."
You can purchase this book at Fatbrain.