May 8, 2008
"the blue monster is the future of marketing"
I haven't talked about The Blue Monster for a while.
The Blue Monster, as you will remember, is a cartoon-based "Social Object" that me and my Microsoft buddy, Steve Clayton, unleashed on the good but unsuspecting folk at Microsoft. For those unfamiliar with it, you can find the backstory here on Google.
One of the reasons I haven't talked about it much lately, is simply because there is no longer the need. To paraphrase Steve, "It's already out there, it's already working its magic. It has a life of its own and it no longer needs us."
Exactly. And as my friend, Tara Hunt so rightly pointed out, to push it too hard, especially with Microsoft management giving it a big thumbs-up, would somehow defeat the purpose. If overused, "Subversion as a marketing tool" can be counterproductive, especially if it comes from above.
In 2007, the conversation was all about "THE" Blue Monster. But in 2008, a new conversation seems to be emerging: "A" Blue Monster.
Let me explain:
I've been talking to some companies recently, talking about doing some new business with them. Without any doubt, the question I get asked the most is, "Can you make a Blue Monster for us?"
Obviously, when they're talking about "A" Blue Monster, they're not talking about a wee blue cartoon character with pointy horns, that hails from Redmond, Washington.
What they're talking about, of course, is a "Social Object", not necessarily a cartoon, designed to create what I loosely describe as "Marketing Disruption".
It's not unlike when you're talking about Seth Godin. When you say, "THE" Purple Cow, you're talking about his wonderful and seminal marketing book from a few years ago. But when you talk about "A" Purple Cow, you're just talking a about a product, any product, which from a marketing standpoint has been designed so well, it does not need any traditional marketing per se. It's so "remarkable" for what it is, people can't help but talk about it. And so the word spreads, almost by magic. Seth actually gives a really good example of exactly that here.
So what's the difference between a Purple Cow and a Blue Monster? Well, we could split hairs on that one forever, but for me, the main difference is Purple Cows have their "remarkability" baked into the product. Blue Monsters are more about the "Social", the interesting bit is the interactions that happen AROUND the product. That's what gave our little wine company the edge when marketing Stormhoek. The VAST majority of our conversation was not about the wine in the bottle. The conversation WAS ALL ABOUT the people drinking it. As we were fond of saying, "Wine is the ultimate social object. It's only interesting AFTER the cork is pulled."
So in conclusion, yes, something has recently evolved in my thinking. Though my relationship with Microsoft remains as strong as ever, "Blue Monster" now means something far bigger to me than just cartoons, gapingvoid, Microsoft, Redmond etc. The Blue Monster is all about the Social Object.
I have often said, I believe Social Objects are the future of marketing.
Let me modify that slightly: I believe the Blue Monster is the future of marketing.
[UPDATE:] Steve Clayton sent me the following message on Twitter:
I replied back:
[Afterthought:] Understanding the Blue Monster means understanding the need to be "bigger than yourself". Exactly.
Posted by hugh macleod at May 8, 2008 11:52 AM
It's the future of marketing ... and yet, isn't this what marketing should always have been about? Professionals somehow lost sight of the art of marketing by focusing on the science marketing. Great post.
Well said. The Blue Monster has inspired many of us.
More importantly, it serves a good entry point for discussions. Discussions occurring within small firms to the board rooms of the largest corporates.
Social Objects unlock something powerful. The power for people to communicate again with themselves and their customers. It is honest, pure and no bullshit.
There's a thesis in here... and one day I may research it for a doctorate...
BTW, how's the book coming along?
Hugh, as longs as there has been trade, there has been the need of marketing. Looking back at just the past 100 years, there have been many an author writing about 'new marketing' (such as Claude Hopkins Scientific Marketing, David Ogilvy on Advertising, etc, etc.) You mention Seth and Purple Cow, and of course social objects currently personified by the Blue Monster.
I totally agree with Alex, isn't this what marketing should have been all about? There are numerous processes and techniques to close a sale, many of which result in failure. Customers have many reasons to buy. The timeless magic of commerce happens in a very narrow overlapping area called 'marketing'.
Hugh, you inspired my first ever blog related drawing. http://www.flickr.com/photos/26405521@N03/2477008012/
Deep. Soooooooooooooooooo Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.
You should colorize the Blue Monster and take it to Google. :-)
Google already has a Blue Monster, it already is 'colorized', it looks like this.
OH, you already knew that :-)
Stop, wait, reverse that...(from Willie Wonka)
What I like about the Blue Monster is that it makes MSFT smaller than itself. The problem with MSFT is that it is SO big it becomes faceless in many aspects. The Blue Monster puts a face on the company, and one that is cheerful and just a little subversive. Like Dennis the Menace. It shows that the company is willing to be self effacing and even recognize it's inner "demon". It has a life of it's own because MSFT let's it and because they let it, reflects positively back on the company. BRAVO Blue Monster!
Eh, so long as the Blue Monster doesn't turn into the Blue Sock. Creating true social objects is very hard.
alexdc and I have had numerous discussion on it sparked by that Singles Bracelet thingy.
And I also think that when you say "I believe the Blue Monster is the future of marketing." you are really reiterating and condensing what you've been saying and doing for a very long time. Good to see the concept hold.
You are waaaaaay over thinking this... MSFT is fucked, period.
PCD, I doubt you have any serious knowledge as to EXACTKY WHAT I'm thinking. As for your ungracious thoughts on Microsoft, time will tell ;-)
btw, Normally I don't publish anonymous comments, but what the hell, I'm guessing you probably work for a competitor of theirs, and giving out your name would probably not be a wise carer move. Rock on.
I still don't get blue monster?