Some open source critique

Over at the Maneuver Marketing Communique, there is some strong criticism against the idea of open source marketing. (I actually found this through the response of James Cherkoff)
Now while I am also not sure, if we need a new buzzword, such as „listenomics“ as Bob Garfield called it, and some of the arguments of vSente are not bad at all, I still think they miss the point:

Open Source Marketing will never get off the starting line because the vast majority of consumers simply DO NOT WANT TO PARTICIPATE. The vast majority will not draw pictures, create blogs, read blogs, engage in conversations, establish a relationship, join a network, offer advice or file complaints for the several thousand different products and services […] What most consumers want as a base line are products and services that are fairly priced, honestly presented and easy to get. Beyond that consumers want to be wowed, dazzled, impressed and entertained…

Now that is disappointing and almost insulting. Not necessarily to the vast majority mentioned, but open source marketing (or open source advertising, ) is never intended for the great masses of indifferentially buying consumers (at least I wouldn’t think so). That’s why we’ll allways need „classical“ push advertising, whatever that might entail, in the context of greater consumer control over media consumption.

Taking the good old 80/20 rule in to consideration, you will find that the top segment of customers actually want to be very much involved with your brand.
They might actually produce ads (
without having been asked to), they might start blogs about their favourite brand, and the most ambitious advocates will even go through the effort of making short clips.
And many of those who don’t, will still be very much involved with the brand and happily enjoy the consumer generated ads, if not for the feel of closeness and relevance. The perception of „I could“ is enough for quite a few to feel engaged.

Now of course, this alone doesn’t necessarily sell individual products. But then again, did any brand image advertising ever seriously intend to do that?

Going beyond the arguments above: We need to differentiate between promotional and brand advertising. Nowadays the disctinction might be minimal, because companies most often try to do both at the same time. Nevertheless, brand advertising is about long term ties with the customer base, as well as connecting with the prospect base. Promotional advertising is about short term sales to either target group.

This differentiation is important, because establishing a close tie or bond with your top 20%, the fans, the advocates, doesn’t only result in (long term) revenues with these few people. They will also go on and tell the average 7 people about why they buy your brand. (This will, of course, also happen with short term offers. But only for the time the offer lasts.)
All of a sudden, brand image advertising is a trigger for word-of-mouth, and the reach of any successful brand advertising is much greater than measurable in commonly applied ad metrics.

So back to the point whether open source marketing makes sense or not: These days, when consumers have greater control over media consumption (and, increasingly, their production – think podcasts, videos and vidcasts, blogs), there is an increasing tendency to exert this control or even take part in the production.

My assumption is, that the more people can take part in the overall communication about anything, they will do so, starting with what’s most relevant and interesting for them (of course). For our case, it’s the brands that they might choose to communicate about – and WITH.

We need to make sure, that the small but loyal and advocating group of brand fans can take part in shaping, and communicating with, „their“ brands. Be it through creating ads, or even taking part in how the products/services are designed and offered.
As the level of the individual’s involvement in today’s communication about any topic is increasing, companies should make sure, that their favourite brand is ready for the conversation.

The Cluetrain Manifesto says: „Markets are conversations“. It doesn’t say Markets are Speeches (not even those based on „listening“ research).



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