22
Aug

All Marketers are Snakes

I bought Seth Godin’sAll Marketers are Liars” last week and read it cover to cover in less than a week (a new record for me). It’s one of those books that just clicks with you instantly. You feel like a lot of what he is saying is obvious but taken as a whole, it tells a compelling story.

The timing of my reading was apt considering the sub-title is “The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World”. The recent attempt by some in the blogosphere to create a buzz around “Snakes on a Plane” (aka SOAP) was a perfect example of how to get it wrong. Many have commented that the viral marketing approach used to create a grassroots groundswell of good will about this movie was a failure considering the mediocre takings at the box-office on its opening weekend.

Those who were part of the alleged viral attempt still claim success, if by success you mean not generating much revenue. Seth himself made some good comments on the movie saying the best way to succeed is still to have a really great product.

But Seth’s book has got me in a different mind-set and the one thing I noted about the whole SOAP “campaign” was that I felt I was being played. At no point did this feel like genuine enthusiasm for a crappy B-movie. This was no bunch of teenagers hanging out in Bebo, it came across as a bunch of mature bloggers trying to prove a point. The louder they screeched, the more I avoided anything that even mentioned the movie. The failure was not just one of product quality, it was one of authenticity.

I’ve learned some simple powerful lessons from the book, particularly about framing stories to match world views and believing the story you are telling. This is a great book, worth reading even if you never intend to sell anything to anyone but want some good insights into the lies we all tell ourselves to make sense of our world.

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About Conor O'Neill

12 Comments for this entry

Alan O'Rourke
August 22nd, 2006 on 2:52 pm

I am very confused by the whole Snakes on a plane backlash and I believe it is coming from people who didn’t understand it in the first place.

Snakes on a plane was being hailed as a cult B movie. It was and still is showing all the signs. The meme became so well known it spilled into the mainstream media.

Mainstream media don’t normally do cult B movies. So they applied the A movie mentality to it. Then when it didn’t play out as an A movie normally would they declared it a failure.

Cult B movies don’t do opening weekends. The fact it made number 2 in the US box office shows how much of a success the recent word of mouth marketing has been but that is not its strength.

Where B movies normally become successes is in video/DVD.

A movies have a big opening (supported by large marketing budget) and fade quickly, followed by a big rental release (supported by large marketing budget) and fade quickly, retail and then TV etc. Their money is made in the opening weeks.

B movies are slow burners. They do the Long tail and slowly build up over time into a steady turnover. It means that in 20 years you will still find it on the video shelves for sale or rent in what ever ultimate edition was last released. That is where the success of a B movie is measured and ultimately everyone involved makes a lot of regular money off it over many years.

What the recent buzz has done has ensured that the film is going to go along that path and gave it a good push a lot earlier then has ever happened in movies before.

I can guarantee you that you are going to see sequels to this film. If you do, it is because that first one made a very nice bit of money.

The main thing that SOAP shows to me is that mainstream media is paying far too much attention to geeks on the internet. Probably because they are the most vocal.

Conor O'Neill
August 22nd, 2006 on 2:52 pm

I knew Long Tail would be mentioned somewhere! You are spot-on about the longevity of good enjoyable B-Movies. I watched a bit of Re-Animator the other night to relive the 1980′s.

My core criticism is not really of success/failure but of what I perceive to be a fakeness about the whole "cultness" of it. It feels like someone trying too hard to create a Rocky Horror. Real cult classics don’t need bloggers rewriting the script for them, they happen because of genuine affection for a movie. I honestly think this is a silly bubble of nonsense and the movie will end up as well regarded as that classic, Anaconda.

Now if you want to talk about a real modern B-Movie Cult classic, let’s talk Bubba Ho-Tep: Don’t make me use my stuff on ya, baby!

RisingSunofNihon
August 22nd, 2006 on 3:04 pm

The whole Snakes on a Plane thing just goes to show that Internet buzz and actual street buzz are two totally different things. I’ve no doubt that if SOAP generated as much street buzz as it did online, it would have made millions more at the box office. But yeah, as Seth says, it’s better to have a solid product to begin with, which Snakes is not (according to the critical reviews I’ve read).

Conor O'Neill
August 22nd, 2006 on 3:04 pm

Yup, I’m reminded of that every time I mention Technorati and get blanked.

Alan O'Rourke
August 22nd, 2006 on 3:15 pm

I think what happened is that the marketers spotted the buzz and jumped on the bandwagon perhaps causing some over exposure in some areas. You cant blame them really. I dont think they hurt it.

Anything with elvis, the chin and a mummy is an instant classic in anyones book :)

Conor O'Neill
August 22nd, 2006 on 3:15 pm

Which brings us nicely back to Seth’s book and what successful marketing in the modern world has to be about.

walter
August 23rd, 2006 on 3:46 am

The whole SOAP buzz always seemed contrived. Tcal.net have been pimping that film for months. There’s a lot of shrill voices on the internet. I’ve recently been looking around for a new MP3 player and Wow, the OS zealots have nothing on DAP zealots. To look at the internet, you’d think the world was full of bi-polar teenagers. Engadget.com is one of the worst, comments on each post typically descend into "iPod Rocks" vs "iPod Sucks" debates. The shrillness is pervasive, it’s like the Internet’s background radiation.

Conor O'Neill
August 23rd, 2006 on 3:46 am

Now that phrase is going to be stuck in my head for ages: "the Internet’s background radiation". Love it.

James Corbett
August 23rd, 2006 on 4:08 am

"You feel like a lot of what he is saying is obvious but taken as a whole, it tells a compelling story."

That encapsulates perfectly the way I felt after reading two of Seth’s other books – Permission Marketing and The Purple Cow. There were few remarkable insights in either books yet by the time I’d finished reading them I was sold on Seth’s philosophies.

Conor O'Neill
August 23rd, 2006 on 4:08 am

Purple Cow is next on the list for me, he refers to it quite a bit in the latter half of "Liars".

Well when I say next, I mean next after "Don’t make me think", "Web Standards Solutions" and "How to build scalable web apps"! I haven’t read so much in years.

Dave
August 23rd, 2006 on 3:02 pm

I must be out of the loop on the S.O.A.P. buzz, but the last time I saw a studio actually create "artificial buzz" successfully was the first Blair Witch Project movie. Their advertising was under the radar screen and seemed like genuine, independent, third-party, positive buzz.

Isn’t is sad when talk about outweighs the actual gravitas of the movie? We pretend that advertising and faking grass roots word-of-mouth advertising is actually the same as having a quality product just because the movie sells a lot of tickets. What people don’t realize is that every time marketers dupe people into inferior products (like movies), those marketers just make consumers even more cynical toward all things marketing and advertising. That means marketers will just blast shill messages about crappy products more and more and louder and louder. What a downward spiral.

…but back to Seth’s book, I reviewed it months ago at my blog at: http://davedolak.blogspot.com/2006/01/book-review-all-marketers-are-liars.html . He makes very good points but the heart of all good brand building and marketing is starting with a very high quality product or service. Nothing else will substitute.

Dave
August 23rd, 2006 on 3:03 pm

I must be out of the loop on the S.O.A.P. buzz, but the last time I saw a studio actually create "artificial buzz" successfully was the first Blair Witch Project movie. Their advertising was under the radar screen and seemed like genuine, independent, third-party, positive buzz.

Isn’t is sad when talk about how such things are advertised outweighs the actual gravitas of the movie? We pretend that advertising and faking grass roots word-of-mouth advertising is actually the same as having a quality product just because the movie sells a lot of tickets. What people don’t realize is that every time marketers dupe people into inferior products (like movies), those marketers just make consumers even more cynical toward all things marketing and advertising. That means marketers will just blast shill messages about crappy products more and more and louder and louder. What a downward spiral.

…but back to Seth’s book, I reviewed it months ago at my blog at: http://davedolak.blogspot.com/2006/01/book-review-all-marketers-are-liars.html . He makes very good points but the heart of all good brand building and marketing is starting with a very high quality product or service. Nothing else will substitute.