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Ladies and gentlemen, please return your tray tables to the fully upright and locked position, suspend your disbelief and put on your tinfoil pyramid hats. We are now entering... [cue lights, cue music] the Brand Dimension!Gonzo Marketing is a knuckle-whitening ride to the place where social criticism, biting satire, and serious commerce meet...and where the outdated ideals of mass marketing and broadcast media are being left in the dust. As master of ceremonies at the wake for traditional one-size-fits-all marketing, Locke has assembled a unique guest list, from Geoffrey Chaucer to Hunter S. Thompson, to guide us through the revolution that is rocking business today, as people connect on the Web to form powerful micromarkets. These networked communities, based on candor, trust, passion, and a general disdain for anything that smacks of corporate smugness, reflect much deeper trends in our culture, which Locke illuminates with his characteristic wit.Just as gonzo journalism arose in response to "objective" news standards that claimed to foster fairness but in practice discouraged writers from speaking their minds in their own voices, so too does gonzo marketing call for a similar response to assumptions about consumer behavior that no longer relate to how people actually live their lives. Gonzo Marketing is not yet-another nostrum for hoodwinking the unwary. It's about market advocacy. It describes how "the artist formerly known as advertising" must do a 180. It's about transforming the marketing message from "we want your money" to "we share your interests." It's about tapping into, listening to, and even forming alliances with emerging on-line markets, who probably know more about your company than you do. It's a hip-hop cover of boring old best practices played backwards. The paradox is that companies that support and promote these communities can have everything they've always wanted: greater market share, customer loyalty, brand equity. Irreverent, penetrating, profoundly simple, and on-the-money, Gonzo Marketing is the raucous wake-up that no one interested in any aspect of twenty-first century business-from the trading floor right up to the boardroom-can afford to ignore.
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The coauthor of the no-more-business-as-usual blockbuster The Cluetrain Manifesto--which basically told Net-age marketers to stop talking at their markets and start conversing with them--follows up with a book that's more a highly entertaining, nimbly erudite screed against our current mass-market, mass-media culture than it is a recipe book for e-commerce marketing success in the post-cyberboom era. Writing in a paler imitation of the profanely irreverent, freely associative "gonzo" journalism style pioneered by his obvious idol Hunter S. Thompson, Locke starts with the by-now-familiar idea that old-style mass-marketing "broadcast" advertising just won't work on the Web. Indeed, he says, conventional print-ad tactics as embodied online by banners and pop-ups might actually generate more ill will than sales, and that's why companies must use the Web to somehow enjoin their products and services to the quirky niche interests of the gazillion individual cybercommunities (or "micromarkets") whose greatest advantage for marketers is how freely and speedily their members talk among themselves, touting a brand when and if it's truly deserved.
Useful examples of such enjoinment don't appear until a slim, penultimate chapter, and they are mostly theoretical in nature, e.g., what if Ford, after giving its employees worldwide free home computers and Net access (which it did), got all of them who were into organic gardening to infiltrate organic-gardening Web communities to push (via the subtle art of persuasion, one supposes) the niftiness of Ford pickups for organic gardeners? Truth be told, Locke seems more like a social critic or humanist at heart than a marketing consultant, and his essential disdain for corporations (which are anti-human, he declares, despite all their philanthropic tootle) leaves the reader wondering whether he really wants e-commerce to effectively pervade the Web's truly democratic, populist microcommunities for its own purposes. As his wonderfully cranky cult Web zine, Entropy Gradient Reversals, and his alter ego therein, RageBoy, have proven, the man's a smart, witty, broadly read cyberpundit. In Gonzo Marketing, he tweaks everyone from Disney, Time Warner AOL, and IBM to fellow biz-book writers like Seth Godin (Permission Marketing), and if you read it first for its own eclectic, acerbic delights and second for a postboom e-marketing primer, you'll be rightly pleased. --Timothy MurphyFrom the Author:
I had a lot of fun writing this book, and I hope you have as much fun reading what I wrote. It's not all comedy though. As the first line promises: "This is a serious book. No fooling." And it is. Between the cracks (of which there are plenty), Gonzo Marketing describes a way for business and online markets to enter into an entirely new and far more productive kind of partnership. The model it proposes is radical -- in the sense of going to the root -- but surprisingly practical as well. The potential payoff is not just better business, but a more vibrant and interesting world. It's getting there that's the trick. I suspect the book's slashing critique of corporate "best practices" is going to cheese some people off, but good. However, I hope a many more will begin to put these ideas into practice. That comes later, though. For now, Valued Readers, just enjoy the ride! -clocke/RB
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