We're All Idiots

Ian Lurie

Note: I’ve had a bad day. A very, very bad day. One that, after a good night’s sleep, will fade away. But for now, it counts as bad, bad, bad. So take this with a grain of salt. That being said…

Another note: I posted angry. Now I am eating crow, here.

Are we all idiots? “All” meaning “me and some other people”. I’m starting to worry.

I walked into my office today to see this post on GrokDotCom. Auuuuuuugh!!!!

‘Viral Marketing’ and ‘Word of Mouth Marketing’ are another way of saying ‘marketing that works’. Well, ‘word of mouth marketing’ can also mean ‘lying’ but that’s a whole other can of worms. Oops. Just opened it. But they’re buzzwords that stuck, and those who use the most buzzwords, win.

10 minutes later a potential client gave me the cold shoulder because we didn’t have enough ‘viral experience’. Wha…? I’ve caught plenty of colds, if that’s what they mean. And I’ve done lots of work that ‘went viral’, whatever the hell that means. But since it didn’t have the right buzzword in our portfolio, oh well.

Then I saw this: The I-5 Slog.

The I-5 Slog

Cute. Seems funny too. It seemed really clever. Then someone pointed out a critical fact: Most Horizon Air customers live along the stretch that this site makes fun of. I’m sure they’re taking this with good humor. But this ad was designed to win awards, not sell seats on airplanes.

Which brought me to this: Are we all idiots? Should we put more time into buzzwords and awards? Rather than wasting time on silly things like personas, search, analytics, etc.? Sure seems like that’s the ticket to greatness…

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Buzzwords like viral marketing really only imply flash in the pan success. We aren’t all idiots, but we do tend to gravitate towards the easy path of getting excited about trends. Web 2.0, “going viral”, all these things are formulated to wow people without providing any lasting value. There just needs to be a better way to communicate to people that they need to ignore trends and focus on solid results.

  2. Ian,
    Maybe I don’t understand your rant — not uncommon for an idiot — but I’m wondering how you came to the conclusion, or so you’ve intimated, that I’m promoting buzzwords at the expense of, say, using personas or analytics to plan and optimize the customer experience? Without getting into the details of our Persuasion Architecture methodology, those are absolutely integral to everything we do at Future Now. Regardless, our track record speaks for itself.
    The example I gave in the post you linked to is of a company that latched onto REAL buzz from real customers (see also “word of mouth”) by using viral marketing TACTICS to help spread their customers’ cause — which they adopted as their own.
    Word of mouth = the sum total of what people are saying about your brand
    Viral marketing = tactics used to spread word of mouth
    Neither of these are strategies in and of themselves. Good marketing does tend to spread by word of mouth/mouse/whatever, but good EXPERIENCES are what create lasting word of mouth. So, “word of mouth marketing” and “viral marketing,” if you must paint them with the same broad brush, are subject to the multi-channel planning that’s gone on behind the scenes to help coordinate, funnel and/or spread a (*clears throat*) conversation. So, yeah, personas help quite a lot in doing just that, don’t you think?
    If you want to gripe about buzzwords, you’ve got the right idiot. Still, we live in a different era now and word of mouth (yes, it makes sense to call it that) spreads in faster, more multifaceted ways than it did just years ago. But that’s just a matter of attention.
    As Chris said in the first comment, getting results is what matters. But blindly balking at buzz words just because people use them is just as empty a gesture as using them blindly.
    This is a conversation about how to define and parse-out meaning from metaphor. Godin and Sernovitz are trying to get to the center of it, so people can actually understand the words coming out of their mouths and keyboards. I don’t see what’s idiotic about that. Ignorance is bliss, then, I reckon.
    By the way, that Slog website makes a lot of sense. Of course Horizon Air’s customers live along that stretch of road; if it weren’t so awful, the airline wouldn’t exist. The locals know it’s horrible, and they do laugh it. The airline knows its customers aren’t excited to take another plane before or after they get to the Portland airport, so they’re having a bit of fun. Besides, I’ve taken Horizon Air a couple of times, and the locals already laugh about the situation. (What else can they do?) Maybe you find it idiotic award-bait because you’re not the customer they’re hoping to attract? Anyway, I don’t know how that particular campaign’s performing, but it would be great if you could find out and let us all know.
    Hope today’s going better for you!

  3. Hi Robert,
    You’re not the idiot. I am – my buzzwords never caught on.
    What got me about your blog post was more that it seemed to go over old ground. But I’m old. So it may be me, not the ground.
    You pegged my true frustration though: It’s not the buzzwords themselves. It’s the people who start parroting them madly in an effort to sound like they know what they’re doing. I have no doubt that 30-40 blogs will shortly have new posts that read an awful lot like yours.
    It reminds me of the sheep in Animal Farm: “Four legs baaaad, two legs goooood….”
    BTW: I have a great deal of respect for Persuasion Architecture, and have borrowed from it periodically.
    Thanks for the great comment,

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