Over the years Jack Trout has written a lot about marketing, and I’ve read a lot of his stuff, too. Not lately, but anyway. I tripped over his column in Forbes today — Is Word Of Mouth All It’s Cracked Up To Be? — and it’s interesting to see how much his perspective has not changed with the times. That’s unfortunate, but I still agree with some of what he says.
For instance, he starts out by lamenting about the latest FAD — word-of-mouth marketing and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and the fact that people are going to conferences for this stuff and the fact that none of this is new, etc. Ok, it’s not necessarily all new, but hey, Jack, lighten up. People want to meet and form communities. Associations and conferences and mail lists and phones and web sites and pagers are all based around the fundamental need for humans to talk to each other and that’s pretty much it. Then Jack launches into a long list of sameness: :
Totally agree. There’s a lot of marketing out there these days, eh? It cycles through, one FAD after another. He forgot “Web 2.0” though. No big deal, really. Good marketing — just like good anything — will come in different names at different times, but the best practitioners are timeless and always easy to find, even if the practices change. Again, people first. Quality cuts through crap and everyone knows who produces quality within a given community.
So far in the piece, he’s just poking fun (which is fun), but Jack doesn’t like these newer forms of marketing for a much bigger and more threatening reason — control. Although FADs come and go, I do think the giving up of “control” is here to stay and it pervades his “dictionary” of marketing terms up there. I think it’s good, but Jack thinks it bad. Really bad. According to Jack:
This all brings me to my word-of-mouth on word-of-mouth marketing. It’s not the next big thing. It’s just another tool in your arsenal. If you have a way to get your strategy or point of difference talked about by your customers and prospects, that’s terrific. It will help, but you’re going to have to surround it with a lot of other effort, including, if you’ll pardon the expression, advertising. You just can’t buy mouths the way you can buy media. And mouths can stop talking about you in a heartbeat once something else comes along to talk about.
Here’s where I leave you, Jack. “Developing positioning” …. “delivering messages” … “no way to control” … “let consumers take over my campaign” … and then ending up with buying advertising? That’s the answer? Wow. I’m glad I don’t live in that old paradigm anymore. There’s much more opportunity for win-win marketing doing business from the perspective of a community culture where things like “positioning, messages, and control” don’t exist and power is distributed among many participants.