I got to the end of Gonzo Marketing

I got it.

I mean, yeah, I get it, I really get it… but Chris Locke probably won’t like my conclusions.

Let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say you go to the electronic store to look for a new TV. At many of the big box retailers you go into the sales people will be all over you like stink on shit. You can’t even get NEAR the product before someone is there to help you find the most expensive thing in the store. They push, they shove, they try to sell you extended warrantees and in home service and setup and 101 other things. They pressure you like made to spend the most money and make them the most commission.

The Gonzo Marketing version would be this: You go into the same store. The sales staff are all hidden in dark corners where you can’t see them. The place is filled with other people who aren’t looking for TVs, but instead are enjoying watching the discovery channel on 64 big screen TVs. As you walk around, they talk to you about the green leaves on the screen or the life cycle of the wild animals or how to save the rain forest. Now, you love the rain forest, and you start to talk to that person about the rain forest, and how it is important and stuff. All the while, you are watching the picture on this really nice new plasma TV that happens to be right next to you. The person mentions they have one just like it at home, and it is really great. They talk some more about the rain forest and stuff… and then they mention that this plasma is much better than the LCD screen and much brigher and stuff, and really is a good bargain right now at $300 off the normal price. Did they mention that their son works in sale here? I am sure he could get you another $200 off on it… let me introduce you… and you end up buying the over priced plasma TV from your friend.

The “father” is in fact employed by the store, and gets a commission on every sale. Rather than looking like sales staff, they play the friendly “other shopper” and disarm people by making them think that they are NOT selling them something. It is clever, but it is massively misleading and dishonest (and I suspect illegal in some manner, but I can’t be sure)

The company and the individuals have to team up together to create the perfect ruse. They have to setup the TVs just right, put the right show on the screen, and have enough people around that they are sure to hit something you are interested in. Once they get you talking, it won’t be long before they can make the sale without you realizing you were getting cornered.

Putting it in the web context, it basically breaks the assumed trust of blogs and bloggers. While we know (see previous post) that bloggers are not entirely honest or at least not entirely correct, there is a trust that they are blogging with some sort of obvious purpose. Commercial blogs are obviously commercial, and personal blogs are obviously personal. Some sites shade the lines, but basically you can tell one from the other. The Gonzo Marketing idea is to go into the personal blogspace and invade it with nice people who in reality are just well disguised fronts for the sale department of their companies.

I guess what cheeses me off the most about this is that Chris Locke goes on and on about the personal responsilbity and the great potential for power that comes with the self publishing world of “weblogs” and personal webspaces. He goes on with the power of the pulpit to preach to us about how we will all have this great personal power, and how it will be the thing that liberates us all.

Then he carefully explains to greedy corporations how to invade, subvert, and abuse this very liberating form of self expression and turn it into just another mass media turd, by assembling as many micromarkets as you can touch and leveraging them together just like any other billboard campaign.

It really sucks to see something so potentially good subverted from the get go by the person preaching about it the most.