September 21, 2005
"Socialised Media" apparachik, BBC employee Ben Metcalfe calls Stormhoek "crappy".
I just think it pollutes the blogosphere as you are giving one brand an a disproportionate advantage over its rivals — it’s not “natural selection”. Plus there is certain expectation (be it implied or just passive) for someone to give it a favourable review having received a complimentary bottle.
Give me a break. It never occurs to Ben, the bloggers could have shredded the wine to pieces just as easily. He doesn't mention that.
What frustrates Ben about the Stormhoek meme, I suspect, is that it's actually working. Without the top-down-big-media-we-know-best-validation-committee giving us permission first.
Ben thinks it's OK for the massive, State-funded BBC to use blogs to connect with people (Ben works on the blog thing for the Beeb), and think it's OK for a huge company like Microsoft to use blogs to do the same (he happily attended the last Scoble dinner, and according to this, he's coming to the next one), but it's not OK for a small, independant winery to use the blogosphere to connect with people? And here he is kvetching about "disproportionate advantage"?
I find his double standards appalling.
I like the BBC ("A fine British anachronism- just like the Royal Family" etc). And I think some of the stuff they're doing online is pretty nifty.
But here's the thing they're not getting: "Social Media" and "Socialised Media" are not compatable. Why? Because the former does not need the latter. And the latter cannot accept that.
The Beeb likes to think it's in the business of "Empowering People". Maybe they are, but only if it doesn't lessen their own power base within the British Establishment. They sneer at commercialism; their currency of choice is control. Are they transparent about that? The hell they are.
Posted by hugh macleod at September 21, 2005 12:41 PM
Looks to me like Ben was making a reasonable criticism about the implication that the "free" wine should be paid for in good reviews, and rather than address that, you're spinning it into a big business vs. little business issue and painting the BBC as some sort of totalitarian regime. If this is how you respond to people who don't like the wine, I think you're just proving Ben's point.
I disagree with his comment that the marketing is crappy. I think you guys have done a great job.
That said, my girlfriend and I actually didn't like the wine either (we found it a little harsh/sharp, we're more used to mellow tipples). I didn't blog about it as I consider it rude to complain about things you get for free. Hasn't stopped me succeeding into strong-arming companies I've paid into submission via my blog though, but I support the Stormhoek campaign and wish it every success, even if their wine made my girlfriend feel ill (admittedly, polishing off the bottle when she didn't like it was not a good idea!), so didn't want to post on my blog about it.
So, perhaps Ben is right in that people would not feel inclined to complain about the wine. In any case, wine is highly subjective and related to personal opinion, as opposed to, say, customer service.. so any complaints are merely worthless opinion.
Heaven forbid someone doesn't fawn and drool all over everything mighty HMc touches. Hugh, you were much more interesting when you talked ideas rather than having become your own number one evangelist/apologist/bulldog.
Yes, I know a blog is one's self and what they are doing out there in the ether, but man, reign it in.
The shameless self-promotion you hate big advertising for so much seems to reflect more than a little self-loathing on your part. Until then, my friend, I know you could care less, but you've been booted from my daily reading list, so save the erudite 'last word' for someone who'll be back.
I think this highlights a fundamental divide within the blogosphere, namely whether it is ok to use blogs for marketing purposes (and WOM etc IS marketing) or not.
Blogs, when used intelligently and honestly, level the marketing playing field, giving the little guy a fair chance. I personally can't see anything bad about this.
Scott, if you can find one, single implication like the one you or Ben suggested, made by me or Stormhoek, I would love to see it.
I have no issue with Ben not liking the wine. There's plenty of good wine I'm not fond of either, same as anyone else.
I just thought it was interesting/amusing seeing the reaction from a member of the big media establishment. Like I said, Social Media and Socialised Media are not compatable.
Sorry you didn't like the wine, Peter. (Visualising a new wave of "I hated the Stormhoek" blog posts...).
PS: I've met Ben before and consider him a nice guy. Not to mention, very clever. I just happen to disagree with him on this one.
i was very honest about it. and thats the gamble hugh takes.
but hugh - why the fuck are you attacking the BBC because someone that worked there called Stormhoek crappy? A bit disproportionate no? By all means push back against the author of the comment, but surely not his employer. or did you have a BBC rant in mind and decided to drop it now?
I think you're being a bit unfair here Hugh, especially to label Ban as some kind of Big Media Aparachik, which is patently absurd in the context of his work.
Another poster has already said they felt it would be impolite to give a negative review to a free gift, so it's not like his point is entirely without merit.
I still think you are onto something clever here, but I am not sure how well your message stands up when you engage in ad hominem attacks on those who don't agree.
Disclosure: I got a bottle and I drank it but didn't blog it. I also enjoyed (too much of the) the Rosé at Our Social World ;-)
Funny Peter, I would have expected you to definately blog that you didn't care for the wine, even if you did like the marketing. But perhaps that's just the American in me shining through. :-)
In one of Cory Doctrow's talks he posted, he mentioned specifically that people were using exact quotes and references to his "free" web book when they were reviewing it on Amazon. These were by people didn't like it and he was tickled because even though the guy didn't enjoy it was advertising for the book.
If I were associated with Stormhoek, I suspect I'd feel the same as Cory did about any reference.
An implication, by definition, can't be seen. It's implied. Are you being intentionally obtuse? I thought Ben made it clear that the implication that positive responses are expected comes with any free give away. Peter repeated the same thing. Personally, I find the "big business is out to get me" incredibly boring. But that's not really the point. You sitll haven't addressed Ben's criticism. How can you expect to get honest feedback on the wine when the act of giving it away completely changes the context? How is this any different from giving free toothpaste to dentists and then saying "4 out of 5 dentists recommend our toothpaste"?
As a marketer I find what you're doing is fascinating. What's not a level playing field? If anything I don't understand why more marketers aren't doing it.
Like your now-former reader I pass over a lot of the English Cut posts because I'm not in the market for a $4K suit so I don't need the details. But I am VERY interested in the marketing model. Same with Stormhoek (and I hope to be on the list when the sampling hits the US, *hint*).
That said, I agree that perhaps you were a bit too defensive in your reply. After all, Ben said he doesn't even drink wine, which makes his comments on the product quality null and void as far as your target market is concerned.
Had he said, "I don't even like wine, but I like this," then I'd be concerned.
Wow! You are moving right along.
Ben's critisism is right in line with my favorite blogging for dollars you nasty whore
The idea of not having the Chinese Wall, or wait for it...No clothes on the emperor, is driving these guys nuts..
keep it up!
Hey, kudos to Ben for saying he thought the wine was crappy. That seems fair game to me, if that's his view.
But "polluting the blogosphere"? Puh-lease. Isn't that a bit OTT? The sort of thing Mary Whitehouse would have said about the sex being referred to on television.
Let's not get all puritanical about this. The blogosphere is not all purity. Purity is boring.
Johnnie, the "Purity Wars" were fought and won a long time ago. And Thank God for that.
After getting my free bottle i have been buying Stormhoek on a regular basis. i have almost made my way through the entire range (can't track down the Cabernet Sauvignon in the shops (two towns and one city)) and have given it as gifts and recommended it to my friends.
like you said, if i had hated it i could have slammed it. ok so it's getting lots of coverage because it's the only blogged wine. but i guess that as soon as others people start trying to copy the idea he will call them crappy for not being original.
the Stormhoek meme works because the product works.
Blogosphere - what? minority sport. More like blogocircles. There is no proof this works - don't get me wrong, Hugh is unquestionably a great change agent and I like the ideas - but unfortunately Hiugh's approach is tinged with the kind arrogance that pisses Big Money off.
Oh boy where do I start.
I guess the first thing I should do is thank you Hugh for generating so much promotion for my blog. I only had 9 comments to the original post on my website – and 3 of them were me replying to other posts! It’s barely been 12 hours since you posted this to your blog and it’s already generated 13 comments! You really do know how to creating a marketing buzz – thank you, thank you, thank you!
(sorry Hugh, I couldn’t resist just a little light-hearted sarcasm, particularly as it’s been a long day at my “suckass job”).
Ok, first of all I think it’s a bit of a “low-blow” to pull out the BBC card. My blog is not the BBC and funnily enough I do have opinions of my own. I’m all up for a bit of debate and banter, and I’m happy to take criticism (if you give it, you gotta be able to take it, etc). But to call me a “apparachik” (http://www.jargondatabase.com/Jargon.aspx?id=381) – man, I was a bit taken a back when I found out what that meant (see, I’m not that clever).
You also put me in a really difficult position here. As much as you can’t seem to separate what I do for a living and what I post on my personal blog, I have to. I have my own views which are not necessarily those of my employer. So to write out any response that defends the BBC or takes issue with what you are saying about the BBC in context to this begins to blur that separation. Like I said, you can confuse, twist and bend the two – sadly I don’t have the luxury of doing any “untwisting”.
Can I make it any clearer – my comments here, my posts on my personal blog, the conversations we might have in person… they are NOT the views of the BBC. They have NOTHING to do with the BBC. I have a life outside of the BBC. Working for the BBC is just a job – it pays the bills and puts food on the table. It’s not a philosophy, religion, consiripicy or state of mind! Like I said, I think using that line pretty much sucks to be quite honest. Perhaps as much as I “suck ass” (your words) at my job, who knows?
So I will keep my response purely to the criticism aimed at me personally. For a start, and I really must stress this, I have NO problem whatsoever with the concept of Stormhoek, or any other company for that matter, connecting with their customer base and potential customer base. But like I keep on saying, and this perhaps is the key point you sadly seem to be missing, you giving out free bottles to push the product is not “connecting with the customer”. It’s plain and simple marketing. Marketing which I find disappointing considering the values of the medium.
I still feel, quite strongly, that you are generating unbalanced PR here (oxymoron?). Hell, if it had an equal chance of producing positive and negative you wouldn’t do it and Stormhoek wouldn’t pay for it – what would be the point? Let’s be honest, they are paying you to generate positive publicity for their product.
Peter Cooper’s post is demonstrative of the above. Despite the fact neither he or his girlfriend liked the wine, and despite the fact it made her feel ill, he decided not to blog it (presumably out of politeness, but the reason doesn’t matter). I think that says a lot about this kind of marketing. That it works, but for the wrong reason. Do you really want to create a marketing campaign that’s successful because of that?
Hugh, I have a lot of respect for you, and I’m happy to return the compliment that you too seem like a nice guy. I also appreciate you too have to put food on the table. But I just think this is the slim end of the wedge, and wonder where this is all going?
Music, book, and movie reviewers nearly always get their samples for free, but that never stopped anyone from trashing a bad movie. Bloggers are people, not professional critics. I have a hard time believing Stormhoek's advantage is somehow disproportionate--compared to what? And was it "given" to them, or did they earn it? To paraphrase Roseanne Barr, advantage is like power, no one gives it to you--you just take it.
I think Ben has valid points about personal statements, but I disagree with him that the Stormhoek marketing campaign works for the wrong reasons. As I said, most bloggers aren't professional critics. Real people blogging has a different kind of credibility a professional critic could never have. That some bloggers would choose not to say anything negative does say a lot about this kind of marketing--just nothing bad, as Ben feels.
What says the most about this kind of marketing is the reaction to it. The campaign is obviously successful and some folks feel threatened.
I just read you awe inspiring article on a coming to terms with a creative existence in Lenswork magazine. Fabulous!!!
Why, it simply reaffirmed that I am on the right track! Now I just need to air mail it to every art uni foyer in the nation...
I appreciate the work you are doing on the cards as well, it reminds me of the type of work the love child of Bukowski and Saint-Exupery might create! Yes! Just ignore the highly disturbing visual aspect of the analogy and I think one may see my point!
P.S. I would rather be a lonely wolf.
Funny, I grew up in New York and up the road was a Baskin and Robbins ice cream store. Baskin and Robbins was known as "31 Flavors", but ultimately grew to 131 flavors. So, when you entered the store there was a little basket of pink spoons, and if you wanted a sample, all you had to do was pick up a spoon and ask. If you liked it, you said yum, bought a cone and maybe told a friend. BTW- 31 flavors grew into a big business.
What is the difference here? There are some free samples and the new way to say "yum" is through a blog, instead of telling your friends by word of mouth.(and of course, next weeks word of mouth seminar in NY will be alot about blogging)
Does anyone remember the P&G detergent and soap samples thru the mail? What about Mrs. Fields cookies samples in malls?
The sampling device is as old a marketing, but the difference here is that it is never done for wine and most producers are too scared to let the public post their views.
Kudos to Stormhoek for having the faith in their product to undertake this very public route to market.
Dennis, no worries- I'm being paid to piss Big Money off.
Ben, right back atcha. Will happily buy you a drink the next time we see each other.
Ben validated your marketing of Stormhoek in the most interesting way possible.
His statement: "... you are giving one brand an a disproportionate advantage over its rivals — it’s not “natural selection”." sounds like the whine of someone who didn't think of the idea first.
That is such a testimonial, you might add it to your list of commendations.
The idea of such activity polluting the blogosphere is hilarious! Who is this guy and where has he been for the past few years?
Congratulations on another well-executed program! Damn, you're good!
Not in accordance with the 'Values of the Medium' says Ben.
I defend his right to diss' the wine. Underweight and underfruit from my sampling...
But get real. There's nothing sacrosanct about personal publishing. Stop trying to proscribe people's behaviour!
I applaud Hugh's experimentation in this early stage of blog evolution. Soon everyone will be communicating like this.
Never forget, we have freewill.
Hear, hear, Tim! And good on folks for being honest about their Stormhœks.
Personally, I would not stop at criticizing something even if I got it for free. I don't believe I would have owed Hugh anything if I had been a recipient, other than my sheer honesty and charm. It’s that one-to-one interaction that every business longs for, and blogs might just provide that. So kudos to Hugh.
With one foot in the media business where I do get stuff for free, it’s my job to be objective—and I occasionally offend. Comes with the territory, just as a low grade does at school: you either cry about it, or take it in your stride and get better.
In the words of Tom Petty, we're...
Just think this shows how exercised people can get about things they care about...however reductionist.
THAT is the power of marketing (aka conversation).
"Music, book, and movie reviewers nearly always get their samples for free, but that never stopped anyone from trashing a bad movie."
Which world are you living in? Most of the big movie review mags would never trash a big Hollywood movie, even if it stinks, because the studios give them access to the stars and the sets, allowing them to publish glossy front covers which boost the circulation.
As Ben says, these kinds of relationships between marketeer and media producer are well established in the offline world, from the record industry working with the radio industry, to PR agents working with TV chat shows. Every celebrity interview on every mainstream media outlet has a kickback generating positive PR for a product.
It's not at all suprising that this kind of thing has crossed over into the blogosphere, but one thing thing that the blogoshere has is massive choice. And I for one will stop reading particular blogs if I think that the author is just pimping products...
did you censor my post yesterday? if so why? it surely can't be because i said "phucking". i repeat why in the pluck are you attacking the bbc because an employee made a comment?
I'm pretty stunned by the broadside on the BBC here and don't really see what it has to do with the wine thing. So I'm going to ignore those.
Ben's comments on the wine marketing were fairly blunt and I'd probably not be so aggressive, but I don't think it's an unreasonable comment to question it as a marketing move. You and I had similar conversations about whether it was cynical or exploitative at Our Social World, and I have to say I'm still not totally convinced.
As Frankie says, if you're a weblogger, all you really have is your name and if people get the sense that you're distorting the message for your peers because you get free stuff then they'll be less inclined to believe you (and will think less of you as a person).
The problem is that being given free stuff is always going to be attractive to people, and although you say that people are free to be negative about the product concerned, it's always going to be in the back of people's minds that if they are negative then the freebies will dry up. So there is a pressure - however slight - towards being positive about the product. It is a form of bribery.
And that means that any positive comment about it will have to be considered dubious by the wider community ("X is a whore, and would sell their name for a free X"), which eventually impacts back on the brand. So it seems to me it probably has an unfortunate effect on the weblog community, and probably - in the longer term, doesn't do the marketed brands much good. Much better just to get the people who make the wine to write their own weblog, get trusted as individuals and give away bottles of wine to the first X readers of that weblog who e-mail in.
I'd echo Tom's comments, really - I don't see what Ben's job has to do with his ability to comment, one way or another.
Now had you said "Ben's a teetotler - what the hell does he know about wine?" I'd have agreed with you!
What the hell do Ben's views have to do with the BBC?
Hey, Tom Coats. Thanks for the input. I enjoyed our talk at Our Social World, I have to say.
I think it may be a cultural difference. If I opened a store selling the cookies, or if I was hired by one, the first thing I'd do is be outside on the sidewalk, handing out free cookies to passers-by. As a way to start a conversation. Markets are conversations ;-)
And yeah, where I grew up (Edinburgh), that approach would have been considered offensive by lot of people (At least, 20 years ago it would have. "Who does he think he is, trying to foist that crap on us?" etc.
But then I went to university in Texas, where that kind of behavior is admired. To call it "bribery" would just get you laughed at.
I see a similar cultural clash happening here, perhaps.
But hey, not my problem. Entrepreneurally, I'm more aligned with the "Texan" side of the coin. And so are millions of other bloggers.
See you next time, whenever ;-)
"It's not natural selection"
I find that very funny. How can a human selection be not natural, as we are part of nature when we select something? Ok, that sounded more greenpeace than it should have, but I guess what he means "This is not a selective mechanism I approve of" and abused Darwin on the way in...
Frankie, the kind of reviewer you're describing is anything but. Those magazines are nothing more than printed movie trailers. Completely worthless whoring and not what I'm talking about at all. You help me prove my point even more, because this illustrates why bloggers are preferable to shills--I mean, critics. Authenticity and independence.
What will happen more and more is that companies will be paying bloggers to do this, but the bloggers will not be allowed to dislose this to their audience as part of the terms of the deal. Bloggers will do this to make money, of course. But they probably won't make much, and when what they're doing is discovered, they will lose all trust from their readership, but they'll do it anyway. When this becomes more widespread, folks will be reading bloggers' "reviews" a little more guardedly. Sad but inevitable.
Markets are conversations... conducted through the medium of little green pieces of paper with some old bird's head on.
Whatever happens, Hugh, you wouldn't be having this conversation if it wasn't providing ROI for your sponsoring company, or for yourself.
Giving away free samples just means there's a material benefit to responding to the initial conversational/fiscal approach...
The phrase 'you don't get something for nothing' cuts both ways.
The problem is one of manipulation; people dislike feeling manipulated. The history of advertising is one of ever-more-subtle ways of sneaking products into the consciousness of consumers, and creating 'desire' where previously there was none.
Desire may eventually transmute into Profit.If you miss the mark and people feel pressured by a product, or threatened by its representative, you've failed to create desire, and thus profit.
As your potential customers get more aware of marketing techniques, and more jaded, you need to change your tactics to reach them, in order to create that desire and make your profit; the mark gets harder and harder to hit. Marketing via Blogs is just a further development in the slow change of advertising from mass broadcast to a more and more focused - and hence smaller - target group of people.
Now... is piggybacking the creation of desire into existing social dynamics and conversations going to produce a long term ROI? Well, that's entirely dependant on maintaining your good standing as a reasonable peer and a charming conversationalist... Your profit depends on your politeness.
Oh... and... erm, just a heads up... how long before Stormhoek becomes the first google result for a phrase like "crappy wine" or "suckass job"? And will that be of benefit to their brand?
I think what I'm trying to say is that you can't expect social network advertising to work if you behave like a tit. Your ability to sell a product is now based upon your personal standing in the group you are selling to. And I'd say that insulting members of that group is probably not the most positive of strategies.
Just a hunch.
I worked with Ben and he's certainly no apparatchik. He's no one's stooge, he's a firestarter!
For what it's worth I think Tom Coates gets to the nub of the issue. If Stormheok were to run a blog about this [well they do!] then fine - tell us about the provenance of the product, it's story and allow people to buy into it or not. But to use your visibility as a *trusted* blogger, albeit a marketing one :-), is to undermine your position of trust in a medium that values transparency and preferably non-commercial transparency. A liberal, personal, non-commercial discourse with it's own set of values is becoming very powerful in the blogosphere. It's a nice counterpoint to increasing State power and government neo-con discourse don't you think?
As far as the BBC not being able to accept that social media doesn't need it [socialised media] - I think that's wrong. The BBC isn't insecure about bloggers/social media - from my own experience there they were trying hard to find ways to plug into social media more as a way to represent interest in and a range of opinions around a subject/issue/event. Social and socialised media can and do exist together quite well.
Can I just check what Hugh means by socialised media too? Is it just a pun on Socialism or something more interesting? If it's the former, then really it's a bit disappointing - every major western power how some form of publically owned or supported television. Most have some healthcare and state education systems as well. We're passed a point - surely - where the mere existence of government-supported agencies constitutes socialism?
What a galactic waste of time.
The cluetrain states markets are conversations, the hughtrain appears to be use the cluetrain but viciously attack someone that disagrees with you. Going for the jfor Ben's jugular and trying to explain away his opinions because of who employs him is quite amateur.
Tom Coates' analysis is spot on.
I think Hugh might have hit on something by noting his own experience on opposite sides of the pond. There's a too-often-run advert on American television for some pill or other, featuring a woman saying 'They're giving it away for free? It must be good!' As a Brit, I find that statement totally bizarre and counter-intuitive.
But. Anyway. I don't think freebies are a good conversation-starter. They can have a part to play in existing conversations -- for instance, if TiVo were to provide Matt Haughey and the community at PVRblog with access to beta features or even new kit -- but even then, freebies need to demonstrate their worth in the blogging environment without relying solely on the word of the blogger.
Compare the non-bloggy approach by my personal favourite winemaker, Sean Thackrey (www.wine-maker.net). He doesn't update often, but he has put online a fine collection of classical and medieval texts on wine-making that you won't find anywhere else. If he were to blog a little about the process, it'd be perfect. And Thackrey doesn't need to market his wine: in fact, his site is valuable because it lists the limited number of people who stock it. It's a classic word-of-mouth success.
Sadly I have to agree with the 'Hugh critique' brigade. While I applaud his approach to marketing his increasingly vicious and personal attacks do him no credit. Which is a shame.
If he's not careful, I suspect he'll fall into the Benetton trap of creating ever more outrageous photoshoots that eventually get panned and canned.
There has to be a point where creativity in using this medium is balanced by commercial reality. It is only fair that, for instance, when Hugh makes commercial claims, that he supports his thinking. But no - instead, we're treated to an explanation why the world is wrong. He may be right but empires don't fall in a day. Neither do they collapse overnight. It takes time. They have to see that things can be different. But it gets worse.
Getting talked about in an environment that is increasingly looking like a mutual masturbation society doesn't spread any word. It becomes blog pornography. Blogocircles perhaps.
Attacking the very people who espouse this medium isn't a conversation it is an annihilation. Introducing their employer into the frame isn't on.
Be creative by all means. Be controversial. But please stop treating like imbeciles those that seek to critique or who have a different take.
"Frankie, the kind of reviewer you're describing is anything but."
I agree with you. Unfortunately, it's all too common in the mainstream media, and is one of the reasons that bloggers have more credibility. And, as you seem to agree, if bloggers undermine this trust then readers will become more sceptical.
In light of this, where do you disagree with Ben exactly?
Labeling the BBC as a socialist organization - as you did by implication, seems counter to your point. In effect you're saying 'blogging's online capitalism' - I think that's an enormous leap.
Everything else you said I agree with.
I'd guess from your posts that you're not a Grauniad reader but am surprised to see your politics in your posts so clearly.
(N.B - Dennis Howlett - please stop using pornography as an example of the most base comercialism or philosophy. I suspect you know little about it.)
Sam, I said they were "Socialised" Media", not "Socialist".
"Socialised" as in an organ of State social control/social cohesion.
It's not always a bad thing- societies that can't cohere tend to fall apart. So it behoves the State to set up cohesion mechanisms. The BBC is one example.
To be fair on them, they have a tough job... they have to compete with both government agencies and private media companies in order to justify their existence. It would drive me nuts.
Well I don't think that you can really describe the BBC as an organ of State social control, although I guess you might have a case for social cohesion. The BBC is editorially independent from government, mostly more trusted than government and is regularly accused by every single political party as being biased against them in one way or another. It has a committment to be independent, and the support of the public to do so. It's as much of a consensual hallucination as government, but that doesn't make it an agent of government.
I know what you mean, Tom. The Beeb is a real paradox.