Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices by Christopher Locke. Perseus Books, $15.00
An older title, but one we crack open and consult every now and then, and recommend to any of you who desire to think of new ways (aka “outside the box”) to approach marketing strategies. Let’s face it, what works in the flesh world does not always work in the digital world, and vice-versa. As new technologies arise, new ways of marketing also open doors—Twitter is an example of this. How many of you were Tweeting a year ago? Microblogging was unheard of two, three years ago, although there were those pioneers who were thinking about it, developing it, and are now smiling at their bank accounts because of it. Locke is the coauthor of the blockbuster The Cluetrain Manifesto, which basically admonished online marketers to stop talking at their markets and start conversing with them, something we all are becoming aware of: that today’s marketing is about dialogue and conversation between brands and consumers. This book not only explores new channels, such as public journalism and blogs, but aids those who have limited resources to market their wares. There are a lot of cheap and/or free methods to reach consumers out there, such as Craigslist, Myspace, and Facebook.
Life Online: Researching Real Experience in Virtual Space by Annette N. Markham. AltaMira Books. $27.95.
We have been advocating ethnographic research methods for marketing and the understanding the psychology and lives of consumers and Internet users. In Markham’s early (auto)ethnography, she studies the changes inside herself, and her perception of the virtual world, as she studies, interviews, and “observes” other people on-line: how they behave, what they believe, how they find meaning in their digital selves. We’ve all spent way too much time on IRC, AIM, Messenger, livejournal, Facebook, etc., often a dirty secret we keep to ourselves – it is good (and scary) to see that many people do the same thing. Have we become a culture that sits behind screens 8-14 hours a day, living a life in wires and signals?
Markham is alarmed about how much time she spends online, and how fast the hours can go by. From a marketing stand-point, this is an invaluable tool to understand how groups of people come together and use software, hardware, and the jargon of the chat room culture to form digital tribes and small societies, with rules and taboos that mirror the real world. The savvy marketer will ask: “How do we exploit this and turn it into sales and profit?”
Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtual Human by Tom Bollestroff. Princeton Univ. Press, $29.95.
Anthropologists study human life and culture in cities, towns, and islands, so why not virtual spaces like Second Life? In Second Life, anyone can become whomever they want: you can change your history, create an avatar that is your ideal self, change your gender or age, your economic status; you can famous or infamous. How and why people choose their alter egos is telling psychologically and socially. This savvy and smart book is written for both general audiences and academic types who are interested in the social, political, and symbolic consequences of having an ideal existence online as opposed to one’s real world life. Is this a good or bad thing for humanity? The gap between the virtual and the physical, and its effect on the ideas of personhood and relationships, is the most interesting aspect of Boellstorff’s analysis. Again, for marketing purposes, this study can help any brand better understand what all those people out there do online, and why, and what it means to them, and what relevance it has in their lives. How can a brand then reach such people and provide them with a product they are dying to buy? Understand how these people think and act online, you have a path to their consumer necessities.