April 5, 2005

pure marketing meltdown denial

More controversy/conversation about fake blogs.

Frankly, it's all a bit of a storm in a treacup. OF COURSE a blog can be "fake" and still work well, and be considered a great blog... BUT ONLY IF the voice behind the mask is authentic. Monolo The Shoe Blogger is a fabulous example.

But if your voice/persona/alter ego comes off as phoney, whether it's "real", "fake", or a bit of both, you're going get hammered, and not just by kvetchy bloggers like me. But by the market you're in.

Why is this so hard for some advertising/marketing/PR people to understand? This has a lot to do with it. Pure marketing meltdown denial.

[UPDATE:] Monolo sends me a note:

Hello to the Hugh!

It is most amusing indeed that you have today singled out the Manolo for mention in your blog, for it was it just the last night that the Manolo he had discovered your witty and most perceptive blog. Indeed he spent much time reading and considering your Hughtrain Manifesto. (There is much good in this work.)

As for the controversy about the "fake" blogs, you are exactly correct. It is the load of the dung.

As the aside, the Manolo he recently participated, as the Manolo, in the internet focus group for the marketing company that was seeking the information on how to build what the Manolo assumes is the "killer" marketing/corporate blog.

Many were the times during the course of this "discussion" that the Manolo he tried to tell the peoples (who were clearly not listening to this wisdom) that it was not the topic, or the design of the blog, or even the "information" that the blog delivered that determined the success or failure of the blog, but rather the personality and the "voice" of the blog. And this it is the function of the talent behind the blog. Of the course, the Manolo he could not but point to his own humble efforts as the example of the blog that succeeds, and very rapidly at that, by having the distinct personality and voice, ones that mesh well with the purposes of the blog.

Which means, sadly for many corporate/marketing blog-builders, that much of the success of the blog depends much upon the talent of the blogger behind it. Happily, when this it is realized (however many years down the road) it means that the best bloggers will be paid handsomely. Of the course, the Manolo he is not holding his breath while he waits for this to happen.

Best of the Wishes,


[NOTE TO SELF:] It's FUN watching the dinosaurs die!

Posted by hugh macleod at April 5, 2005 12:01 PM | TrackBack

I consider the king of fake blogs to be Chris Onstad of Achewood (www.achewood.com), who does a number of blogs in the voices of individual characters from his comic strip. Sometimes they detail freestanding goofy events, sometimes they fill in backstory in the continuity of the comic or retell an event we saw in the strip but from a different character's perspective. It's fascinating stuff. Like you say, it is fake in that these people don't exist but it is indeed authentic. The experience of reading the strip is enhanced by reading the blogs.

Posted by: Dave at April 5, 2005 12:42 PM

I think the Manolo voice is irritating.

Posted by: Dawn at April 5, 2005 1:55 PM

Hugh - do you like that Susannah has 'gapingvoid' under "For Fun" in her BlogRoll, rather than "Buzz Marketing"?

Posted by: Ric at April 5, 2005 2:39 PM

I think I just fell in love with Manolo :P

He *sounds* cute...

Posted by: Niti at April 5, 2005 3:52 PM

manolo makes a good observation, but he may be missing something that i believe is important to understand about blogs.

yes, the "voice"/certain something is an attraction for a blog. certainly, hugh has a certain something and we congregate here daily for our dose of hugh. that certain something is a undefinable quality that is not unlike art.

like notable art, there is an element that attracts people to it. in hugh's blog, it is his wit, artistry and understanding/demonstration of the marketing disruptive nature of blogs. in kathy sierra's blog, it's her awesome ability to write concise, understandable and entertaining posts. they each possess the certain something that attracts readers/viewers. they are each original/authentic.

making the analogy to art is key for any marketer
assuming that a well written, interesting fake blog is sure to attract customers. this is a false assumption. it's like knock off art. it may look like the original, but it doesn't possess the authenticity or certain something inherent in great art/blogs.

one other thing in the relationship between blogging and art....there are way more starving artists than notably successful. even with the long tail effect, of the 8.5 million blogs out there, not all of them are read or noticed. why? likely, because they are missing the certain something that exists in great art.

hopefully, this made some sense....

Posted by: jbr at April 5, 2005 6:53 PM

kathy sierra is a goddess. is she cute? is she single...?


Posted by: hugh macleod at April 5, 2005 7:11 PM

Somewhat related: we write a rather cheeky piece last week about fake blogs on PSFK:

Could SpamBlogs Render Technorati Useless?

Posted by: Piers Fawkes at April 5, 2005 8:53 PM

oh yeah. btw - we LOVE the Manolo!

(and I hear the folk down at Blanik hate him - HeHe!)

Posted by: Piers Fawkes at April 5, 2005 8:54 PM

"But if your voice/persona/alter ego comes off as phoney, whether it's "real", "fake", or a bit of both, you're going get hammered, and not just by kvetchy bloggers like me. But by the market you're in."

I hope your prognosis turns out to be true. Sadly, it has not been true of TV, print, radio, outdoor, etc. So, I'm not sure it will be true of marketing blogs. Of course, it's not possible to talk back to TV, print, radio, outdoor, etc. And now with fake comments and moderated comments, I'm not sure one can successfully talk back via a fake marketing blog either.

At least we have our own real blogs to hammer them with. Not that they're going to listen. "They" being the Cluetrainless masses.

Posted by: David Burn at April 5, 2005 9:42 PM

speaking of fake blogs....go to this new site and decide.

if a real blog, this is amazing and that's what bugs me...it's almost too good/smooth....reads like a script from a television show...

check it out

Posted by: jbr at April 6, 2005 4:58 AM

Not personally being an avid reader of NYTimes.com, I was bummed to find your link required username/pword to read the story. Otherwise, I agree with your comments on the fake blog comments. I have addressed this on my own blog and made comments about this on Scoble's. What I don't understand is how (at least some) ad agencies understand a client's brand & brand potential and the need to be authentic and how well that translates to consumers...yet the clients do not. What is the deal with the gap between the two?

Posted by: Tony May at April 6, 2005 3:53 PM

Sorry about opening line. Was meant for the Flat World link to NYTimes.com.

Posted by: Tony May at April 6, 2005 3:57 PM

"Sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made."

Posted by: Katherine at April 6, 2005 7:29 PM

jbr: It's fake. Or else it's real, but the author just doesn't get the crucial difference between a blog and a term paper or interoffice memo. Or else it's real, but the author is a pompous ass who actually does sound like that.

Posted by: Katherine at April 6, 2005 7:37 PM

Ghost Blogging: a schmuck researches the industry and target audience, then writes a pretend blog "post" for the client...

...and the blog poses as the client's platform featuring his authentic and candid voice pontificating and interacting with target audience.

Fictional Character Blog: a non-existent brand persona poses as a real human blogger even though everyone is supposed to know that he's an imaginary being (Barney, Ronald McDonald, the Giant Mickey Mouse of Disney World, Chicken of the Sea tuna mermaid, Pillsbury Doughboy)...

...and the unreal character blogs about non-events and make believe interactions with other fantasy persons, whilst voicing whatever propaganda the company or ad agency wants to put in his mouth.

Yeah. Real good turn of events for the bloatosphere.

What is the difference between a Fictional Blogger and a Fiction Book?

When people use a fiction book, they are not interacting with the fictional characters, they just read about them for entertainment.

Hugh, can you think of other differences?

Posted by: steven streight aka vaspers the grate at April 7, 2005 4:05 AM

Wow, I'd never seen the Manolo before. Great stuff.

Beyond the "fake blogs" there are also the "autoblogs" - about which I wrote a little here: http://biztos.com/frost/etc/adsense-loop.html

It would be interesting to do a fake-blogger-autoblog. Say, on marketing. Have a nice little robot grab things off the web (maybe via Google) and blog about them in a particular style.

Auto-generated text in a particular "voice" seems to work well in academia: http://www.elsewhere.org/cgi-bin/postmodern

Another thought: what if we could automatically translate Hugh into Manolo?

Posted by: frosty at April 7, 2005 5:55 PM