I was thinking about the state of marketing today and how the internet and technology have changed the game so much. It struck me how many similarities I could draw between modern marketeers and hackers. Think about it, hackers spend their time finding ways to get into and around systems so they can control or disrupt either for financial gain or conquest. Marketers are doing the same thing but through hacking consumers. We have gotten so good at ignoring them but every safe haven we find becomes a temporary escape.
Early television and cable made us watch our shows at a specific time and with big budget advertising so of course we started using our VCRs as one of the earliest methods of time shifting. This evolved into the DVRs we have today so the threatened advertisers and marketers devised clever ways to get us to watch some of the commercials instead of fast forwarding. They brought their message into the shows and started to drain purity through overt product placements. They teased us to stay tuned for exclusive content peeks during commercial breaks. So what did we do? We found downloading, bit torrents and other means to avoid advertising. Again, the marketers realized this and gave us Hulu, Joost and streaming content in high quality with easy access and plugged in just enough advertising so we would accept it as an easier alternative to illegally downloading and dealing with the difficulties of ripping, torrents and the like.
Remember the good times of social networking? The time before every company and brand realized we were all ignoring them by disappearing into our online social groups and only talking about them if we felt like it. I loved the days when social networking was all about friends, colleagues and connections, before the marketing machines infiltrated our ranks asking us to become a fan and share their message with all of our friends. I can’t go a day now without being asked to become a fan of something, join some cause, or follow some company on Twitter.
I use friendfeed so can avoid and parse the information I want to see from friends and avoid much of the advertisers and marketing clutter so of course Facebook bought friendfeed and I assume will assimilate them into the Borg collective soon.
They keep chasing us, we keep trying to run to a place where we can access them only when we want and on our terms and of course let them have access to us in doses we desire. What is next? How will they infiltrate us now? I think they are starting to get to me out of pure exhaustion of having to manage too many filters, levers and switches. It is super tiring to set up subscriptions and preferences for those subscriptions along with groups and content filters for everything online I feel like being a part of. Maybe that is how they will get us, by making us all too tired of running. Of course advertisers are like terminators now too. They are finally figuring out we won’t deal with them unless we smell an actual person on the other end. And while I like the fact we have started to win the battle of forcing them to actually engage directly with their customers I hate the fact it gives them yet another access point we enjoyed freedom from for a time.
Then again maybe this is the biggest victory of all, the fact that we, the consumer are now in control and they can no longer tell us otherwise for fear of the online PR nightmare we can unleash at anytime.
So have we finally won? Don't count on it, the battle will go on as long as brands and consumer exists. All that has shifted is a level of control.