The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Fine Line Between Hero And Horrible …

Back from a nice long weekend.

Hey, if this makes you feel bad, imagine how my poor colleagues feel.

Anyway …

I recently read the book Hype, by Gabrielle Bluestone.

It is depressingly brilliant.

While it covers a huge range of topics, it centres on the actions and behaviours of Fyre Festival founder [or should I say, scammer] Billy McFarland.

Now I appreciate with worldwide coverage and 2 documentaries on the subject, you may think you know all that needs to be known, but apart from Gabrielle bringing some new information to the table, what makes it especially interesting is how she compares his actions to others who are regarded as business geniuses.

Like Elon Musk.

Now you might think that sounds like the actions of someone desperate to create hype for their new book. But no. It’s incredibly well written and researched … and as you turn page after page, with hustler/liar story after hustler/liar story, you come away thinking the whole world has fallen for the Emperors New Clothes trick.

Not to mention that either Billy McFarland is unlucky to be sentenced to jail or Elon Musk – and countless other business people and influencers – are lucky not to be.

Society loves its success stories.

It loves trying to ‘codify‘ the system.

But while only a few ever succeed, it doesn’t stop people blindly following some ‘proven’ rules. Often losing themselves in details rather than appreciating context.

All the while making the originator [or person who shouted the loudest, quickest] even more powerful and famous … before they end up a caricature of what they once were.

I’m seeing a lot of this in marketingland at the moment.

Now, I am not suggesting these people are doing it to ‘con’ anyone. Far from it. In fact their intentions are pretty wonderful. But somewhere along the line, their perspective has developed into a ‘system’ and that system now has a number of unquestionable and unshakeable rules attached to it which, ironically, is starting to negatively affect the very industry they want to help.

To be fair, they are not entirely responsible.

They are a bit … because they give their ‘system’ names that suggest intellectual superiority when it’s really ‘an educated beginners guide’, plus they conveniently turn a blind eye to how many of their students are executing what they learnt – without context or real audience understanding – so it ends up just being lowest common denominator thinking. But the real reason this situation is occurring is too many companies aren’t investing enough in talent or training, so they send people off to do courses with fancy names so they can all look and feel like they are.

Putting aside the fact this also highlights how many companies lack a philosophy regarding their approach and value to marketing, what this ‘one size fits all’ approach is doing is educating a whole generation of marketer/advertiser/company that talent, standards and creativity are not nearly as important as having people who can follow – and police – process, formats and parity.

We’re in danger of getting to the point where independent thinking is seen as dangerous.

Or weakness.

Or anything other than strength.

And while understanding how things work is important, creating a singular approach and process where building brands and creativity is approached like an airfix model – where the outcome is always the same, albeit with different brand names/colours attached – seems to be more about undermining the purpose of marketing rather than liberate it.

What makes this even more amusing is the brands who are attracting the greatest cultural momentum, loyalty and brand value right now are not following any of these ‘process rules’. More than that, they’re building their reputation and value through the creation of distinctive brand ideas that talk directly to their audiences rather than focusing on brand attribution that aims to be slightly memorable among their category.

[Please note, I’m talking about brands with a real business behind them, not just social hype]

Now I appreciate the context and circumstances of cultural brands and the brands who are adopting a marketing ‘system’ are very different … but what I’m trying to highlight is that we now find ourselves in this weird situation where the ambition for many brands is to not find ways to get ahead but to not be left behind – all the while bombarding the market with claims of innovation, new thinking, new opportunities.

And that’s why I loved reading Hype so much.

Not just because it pulled back the curtain on the hypocritical bullshit of so many self-appointed ‘business icons’, but it revealed where we’re all heading if we’re not careful … even though I know there will be people out there who read it and see it as their goal rather than their ruin.

17 Comments so far
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Yes Robert. This is excellent.

Comment by George

Marketing for dummies sold as an MBA of marketing.
Which is the sort of oversell that has got marketing in the mess it is in.

Comment by George

Well said.

Comment by Pete


I’m not saying what they are teaching isn’t good. It is. I’m just saying it’s definitely not the – as you put it – MBA of marketing. Or MBA of anything.

Comment by Rob

One of the things that really stuck with me about your talk on chaos with Martin was how the industry believes they don’t have to invest in creating memories and feelings, and just focus on the transactional opportunity. What you’re describing are people who are perpetuating and executing this shallow view of what marketing and brand can do for their business. I’m buying the book and will be revisiting this post in years to come. Nice one Rob.

Comment by Pete

Hahaha … yes.

The other thing we said that seems especially appropriate is we seem more focused on asset distribution than the creation of ideas that can lead a company and connect to an audience, which is why we seem so comfortable creating endless amounts of cultural landfill..

Comment by Rob

Growth hacking.

Comment by John

except they dont realise theyre hacking their growth to fucking death.

Comment by andy@cynic

fuck campbell. this is good. ill even buy that book. or let you buy it for me. the whole industry is full of fake fucking prophets who claim guru status even though the only successful thing theyve done is get insecure fucks to give them cash.

Comment by andy@cynic

Let me think about your kind offer. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

its like the shittest remake of the emperors new clothes ever fucking made.

Comment by andy@cynic

Well said Robert. I will purchase Hype, it sounds a fascinating read.

George’s second point in this thread is very astute.

Comment by Lee Hill

Yep. Very astute. Damn him.

Comment by Rob

This blog is so much better when you’re throwing bombs.

Comment by Bazza

Isn’t he always throwing bombs?

Comment by Pete

Low bar.

Comment by John

a cockroach couldnt limbo under it its so fucking low.

Comment by andy@cynic

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