Contrarian marketing in the “Us vs Them” era

Its time we took a different approach to viral marketing and our relationship to our customers and users.

I am an eternal optimist and I’m convinced that right will win out against greed and dishonesty and that an open, free web will rein supreme.  I believe that there are factors and trends which can be seen as the ”tea leaves for our future” - and that ”contrarian marketing” is one of those tell-tale signs of where we’re headed.

To stand out in the crowd, marketeers have been embracing social media, #hashtags, Twitter accounts and flogging the Facebook horse.  When #hashtags make it onto ESPN and Nightline – you know we’re there.

These efforts and campaigns are successful “sometimes”, but more often than not brands and advertising agencies attempts at being “social” come off as just another generation of pathetic attempts at manipulating customers.

Authenticity and real relationships are missing from this virtual panacea of marketing and customers are noticing that.

To go viral – you have to Zig while others Zag.  No amount of buzzwords du jour or insider connects is gonna generate the authentic traction you’re looking for with your users.  With each new startup, innovative idea or entrepreneurial movement – the world further bifurcates between folks who “get it” and those who don’t.  Products either fall right into line and customer/users grokit – or – they fall into this venue fly-trap kind of stance – waiting to “trick” users into THEIR lock-in strategy and monetization model.

That’s not really how we should be treating our customers – people!


We need to be on the CUSTOMERS side – not OUR side!

Put yourself into their (your customers)  headset and here’s what you’ll find:

- because of past failures and intransigence of politicians to do the right thing, customers are being TRAINED how to spot the bullshit and uncover the truth (fracking, NSA scandals, Deep Horizon, Tea Party, etc.)

- brand after brand continues to make mistakes, like running Twits on 9/11 promoting themselves or leveraging disasters to their own gain

- purchases are made – and many times these costs turn out to be wasted, shams, hustles or just outright lies – which leads to disappointment and disgust

- customer have been trained to never trust anything before V3.0

- after signing up for some new social network, customers find out – too late – that they’ve been tricked, and that they either have to PAY for the account or relationships to work or they can’t get their data and relationships OUT of the dam thing!

- whether its your underwater mortgage, your lost job, the nice things you can’t afford to buy or that vacation you never had – the distance between the 1% and the rest of us – is continuing to grow – and media just LOVES to make sure we know that!

This is the era where US (the users) are increasingly figuring out that commercial interests (THEM) are exploiting and manipulating US for the purposes of generating the evil dollar.  While the social networking powerhouses do their IPOs and desperately search for additional revenue streams; true sharing-economy powerhouses are being born every day – which bring true disruptive power to the masses (AirBnb, Uber, etc.)

That says to me – that there’s hope!

On top of the sharing economy there are all sorts of other models out there (Etsy, Wikipedia, Lynda, Angie’s List, Kixeye and the Huffington Post) which continue to drive the OPEN web, making SURE that URLs, browsers and links – don’t go away.  In case you haven’t noticed – the baby in the bath water that is getting thrown out of apps and games – is the URL.

Users are wisening up.  They’re noticing that their privacy is being abused by Facebook. They’re noticing all those ads appearing in their timeline and inside of Twitter as well.  They’re noticing posts from brands and people they don’t even know and they’re noticing both Facebook and Twitter turning into ad machines – with little regard to what’s important or matters – to users like themselves.

The youth are also wisening up.  They’re finding Minecraft, YouTube and Spotify are a lot more relevant than just wasting their time on Facebook.

So what’s happening?

We’re living in an era where users no longer buy the bullshit handed to them by big tech brands.  They’ve seen upteenth Apple launches.  They’re heard Google claim they’re not evil.

They watch claims by AT&T that their missing network access actually is GREAT network access!  They’ve seen Facebook change their policies to suit their own best interests.  They’ve watched IPOs from GroupOn and Zynga fall flat on their face.  And they’ve heard politicians claim that they’re working to – create jobs!

The shimmer is off, the ugly side is exposed.  Greed is pervasive and omnipresent in our industry.

Super Angels and VCs conspire to dump startups as acqui-hires.  Large tech behemoths cooperate with the NSA. The English-dominant web continues to ignore the International community.

What works nowadays is siding with users and taking a contrarian approach.  GoDaddy prepped TV commercials KNOWING they’d be turned down for the SuperBowl. This made them look like heroes.  Standing up to the Status quo – is IN.  Its the new black.

Jimmi Fallon teases about #hashtags and we all look at the fanboys lining up for new iPhones as some weird sick cultural by-product.

Those marketeers who can leverage this “Us vs Them” mentality – will make out like bandits.

So they can start entirely NEW trends – to offset the old trends.  Which will lead to new blogs, hashtags, expert consultants and even MORE trade conferences and newsletters. Last year’s TED is this year’s Kickstarter project.

And the beat goes on…..

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