Who or what can you trust?
There was a fair amount of laughter at my sister’s 50th birthday party when I’d Photoshop’ed a picture of her reading to me as a toddler and placed it on a photo-board with other images of her from her first 50 years. The actual book she was reading to me was about a bunny…so I thought it would be humorous to find an old Playboy magazine cover on the ‘net from about the same era (1956-ish) and place it over the cover of the book. Even I was amazed at how realistic it looked and how simple it was to do. It allowed me to lend credence to my claims that my big sister started to corrupt me from a very early age.
But if it’s so easy for *me* to blur the truth, what about the experts who are focused on persuading us to buy, and what new techniques are they using?
One of my favorite bloggers Doc Searls has brought forth a new spin on the viral, buzz creation, word-of-mouth marketing phenomena. If you’re not familiar with what is going on, viral and buzz marketing is all about having people-market-to-people without knowing they’re being marketed to — or have ‘situations’ occur where people are able to interact with a product or service, get questions answered and more — all without really being aware it’s a sales pitch. Car companies are doing it. Sunglass, computer and other consumer products firms are involved. There are even agencies that have sprouted up like BzzAgent as well as traditional advertising and PR agencies that are in to the act. There is even a new trade association that’s started called the Viral & Buzz Marketing Association (link is dead).
When staid institutions like the New York Times or broadcast journalists like Dan Rather violate our trust, connecting the dots is getting harder and harder as truth becomes less evident. With blogs accelerating and consequently a new journalistic paradigm emerging, will the collective conciousness of all of us be better able to uncover and discern the truth? Will there be blogs that start up with names like Viral/Buzz Marketing Revealed telling us all about the newest truth-blurring-marketing efforts and end up short-circuiting these new marketing methods by making people instantly aware they’re being misled?
I believe the answer is “yes”. Bloggers will connect through trackbacks and other means, dozens or hundreds of us will weigh in with opinions of what the truth is or should be, and it will become increasingly more difficult to scam or divert the public from the essence of truth. With Comments below each blog post allowing others to weigh in on the opinion of the blogger, the checks-n-balance possibilities are pretty endless — provided that the next step from viral and buzz marketers isn’t focused on targeting key bloggers and drowning them out with noise.