Everything I Need To Know About Marketing I Learned From Prince

A bunch of bloggers have responded to a meme about the impending 10th anniversary of The Cluetrain Manifesto — a set of 95 theses proclaiming that the business world needs to humanize and be more communicative with consumers.

cluetrain logo

Now, pardon me if that brief synopsis wasn’t accurate — I’ve never actually read Cluetrain, just have heard of and about it from numerous colleagues. But the essence of the book is so agreeable and obvious to me — it’s what Forrester’s Social Computing (Groundswell) is about. It’s Web 2.0, social media, yadda yadda (although Cluretrain having been published in 2000, was way ahead of its time).

But as Jason Falls points out in his meme response, the business world still hasn’t caught up after a decade:

“We’re nowhere. Social media and true consumer-centric brand behavior is prevalent in the technology bubble and few other places. While adoption has been steady and progress has been made, the premise of the book hasn’t exactly “gone viral.” Businesses in general still think bottom line and “what’s in it for me,” first. Advertising still sucks, is loud and intrusive. And consumers still have little reason to trust brands, companies and even folks like me – marketers trying to connect them with products and services that fit their needs.”

Time and again working with Forrester clients, I notice how they struggle to “get it.” Even execs at great, well-respected brands have a hard time embracing social media and allowing consumers to own their bread and butter, and an especially difficult time getting buy-in for things like social networking or participatory design from higher-ups. And I can’t help but wonder how much of this is a generation gap — and will simply take a generational leap.

I’m 26 — the end of “Generation Y,” born 1981. My so far short career in the business/design/marketing world has always lived both feet in the Web (I first signed on when I was 12 on a 486). I read up on black and red boxes, hacking into the phone system, before I graduated high school — the hacker movement in essence being that democratization of information and access that people see the Web as today.

Just in the same way that, when I look at my 18 yr old brother typing at lightning speed on a Sidekick, I’m kinda blown away by what he can do with technology. There’s just that “digital-native” leap that’s going on with 40-something execs unwillingness to fully embrace social media. Perhaps it will just take a few years until my generation has our time running the companies of the world for that change to happen? The Zuckerbergs of the world sure get it.

zuckerberg facebook

Which brings me to the title of this post. In Purple Rain, Prince beats out the antagonist pop local celebrity, who’s main song is the trite “Bird Dance,” with the emotive pop anthem Purple Rain. And then tops it off with I would die 4 U. He overcomes the popular thought of his time — candy-coated marketing fluff — with honest, emotional sincerity.For the past decade we’ve been saturated as a culture from marketing messages, at all angles, and channels, that are surface-y rather than cerebral, comical rather than emotional, pedantic and trite, rather than meaningful,and usually based on popular cultural symbols, rather than deeper human truths.

What we really long for as individuals though are meaningful connections. Emotional, personal and significant moments. That’s in essence what social computing is all about. A revolution (or revolt-ution) against the trite, pedantic marketing that we’ve been fed for so long. We don’t want to be talked down to — we want to communicate with each other. Messaging vs. meaning.

Anyway, I’ll get to reading Cluetrain. One of these days.

purple rain