Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

This Statement Is NOT True

I first posted this back in August 2008 but think that it’s as true (or false) today as it was then. – Matt

Talking with a friend yesterday, he noted that my wife was a writer and then asked if I was a writer as well. I said I was, but explained I was in marketing. “So, you write lies,” he said with a smile.

As every hip marketer knows, thanks to the ever-wise words of the all-knowing Godin-one, all marketers are liars. With his semi-snide snarkiness, my friend was merely echoing the folk wisdom that that holds marketers and marketing more generally in contempt, a subject about which I’ve written before.

Godin playfully invokes this contempt in his “provocative” title, though he was careful to avoid the the liar paradox through use of the modifier “all.” To whit: If Godin is a marketer (albeit one who has achieved “guru” status), then, if his statement is true, we must assume that he may be a liar, in which case his statement may also be a lie. If it’s a lie, however, then it is not true that all marketers are liars. If I remember anything from the “Intro to Logic” course I took as a freshman, the negation of “all marketers are liars” is not “no marketers are liars,” but, “some marketers are liars.”

Proclaiming the undeniable truth that “some marketers are liars,” of course, would not have gotten Godin much attention. Instead, he fans the flames of virulent anti-marketing-ism and tars “all” marketers with the same mendacious brush. Although I wouldn’t accuse Godin of lying with his claim that “all marketers are liars,” I would say that he was “willfully misrepresenting the truth,” and not just about the marketing profession.

If you read the book, or at least the five free pages I linked to above, you discover that he is primarily accusing marketers of “telling stories,” a common parenting euphemism for “lying,” as we all know. Though I agree with him that the goal of marketing is to tell stories, I resist his equation of “stories” with “lies.” Stories may be fabrications and fictions, but that doesn’t make them “lies.” That being said, the problem with Godin’s title isn’t that it’s a lie, the problem is that it’s false (remember that a lie is not simply or necessarily “incorrect”).

But would the book have been so popular if he had called it, “All Marketers Are Wrong”? Is the one thing going for this alternate title the possibility that it could actually be true?

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

I wrote this about a year ago but still think it’s relevant and true. What do you think? – Matt

On Twitter the other day talking with the Conversation Agent about the Associated Press’ decision to go after sites that quote too much of their content — they had called out the “Drudge Retort” (not to be confused with the “Drudge Report,” – though some confusion is undoubtedly intended by the author of the former) for quotations ranging in length from 39 to 79 words — I got to thinking.

I’m no lawyer but I learned about “fair use” as a graduate student and always assumed that, if you were using a quotation in certain expository contexts, that the copyright holders would just have to grin and bear it. I can see there being a problem with populating your blog or website with entire articles penned by someone else – but even then, if you have given proper credit and linked back to the original location of the text, is that really so wrong/bad?

Though I tend to lean in this direction, I’m not saying that all content should be free or that copyright doesn’t mean anything. I am saying, however, that trying to control where your content shows up on the web goes against the tide of history as well as the essence of the web an sich, as the Germans would say.

On the “tide of history” front, “give it away” is the order of the day. I’ve referred elsewhere in these pages to an essay by John Perry Barlow on the power of giving away “content,” and my ideas have not changed on the subject. Specifically, every business should focus on their absolutely unique, inimitable, and irreplaceable offering, and deploy their “content” to sell that.

Barlow uses the example of the Grateful Dead allowing taping at their shows because they realized that circulating bootlegs increased interest in their music and, more importantly, promoted attendance at their shows which were always one of a kind. As the bumper stickers used to say, “There’s Nothing Like A Grateful Dead Concert,” which is why concert revenue was the core of their business.

Apply this to your business and ask yourself, “What is my live-in-concert moment and how can I use my content to get people through the proverbial door?”

On the “essence of the web”-front, I see the distinction between sites as more conventional than actual. Every page on the web is exactly one click away from any other page. That means, not just one click away from any page that belongs to your site proper, but one click away from any other page you can find anywhere on the web. To tell the world, “It’s ok to look at my content here but not there, one click away,” is like saying, “You can access content via your computer but not your iPhone.” In other words, it’s absurd.

More importantly, however, we’ve got to face facts and concede that the site is no longer the absolute home of content, nor is it necessarily the place where the content will be viewed, consumed, or otherwise processed by the end user. Content circulates freely. This circulation can be influenced, but not controlled. Since it cannot be controlled, any business based on selling content or access to it is going to have a shorter and shorter lifespan.

Am I right or am I right?

Image Courtesy of frankh.

I Recommend Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky

aquenteverybody.jpgIt’s not a revolution if nobody loses. – Clay Shirky

I just finished reading Clay Shirky’s masterpiece, Here Comes Everybody, and feel compelled to recommend that you read it. It’s thoughtful, insightful, and well-written. It also a “business” book that is so rich in detail and far-reaching in implication that you can’t easily reduce it’s thesis to a PowerPointable sound-bite.

Although ostensibly about technology – “social media,” broadly speaking – the book’s focus falls less on the geeky details of wikis, blogs, and tweeting, than on the way these technologies facilitate the organization and actions of groups in an historically unprecedented, even revolutionary, manner. In the words of His Shirky-ness, “[W]e are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with one another, and to take collective action, all outside the framework of traditional institutions and organizations.”

If you feel like you or your business could benefit from greater participation in the social media revolution, or if you feel that these new, powerful, group-forming-and-coordinating tools pose an existential threat to your business or occupation (as the rise of the printing press did to medieval scribes), then you can’t afford not to read this highly readable book.

Image – “Everybody was here” – Courtesy of {dpade1337}.

Do you consider SEO a part of marketing or a separate job?

I did a webcast on marketing careers for the Aquent and the AMA in September, 2008. We got a lot of questions during and after the webcast and here’s how I answered one of them. – Matt

Got this question after our AMA webcast on marketing careers t’other day and I’m reading it this way: Should all marketers be thinking about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or should there be a specific individual in the organization who focuses on SEO?

My answer is, “Yes.” Now let me explain, since it doesn’t make any sense to answer an “either/or” question in the affirmative.

Marketers, especially in the communications and advertising realm, all need to think about SEO. The “comms” (PR, corporate communications, investor relations, etc.) should be thinking about it because most if not all the content they produce will probably live on the Web and should serve to drive convertible traffic to the relevant site. For this reason, said content ought to be optimized for search and fit the company’s overall SEO strategy.

Likewise, ad campaigns should have an SEO component in the sense that you should think about buying keywords you don’t already own if they are showing up in your TV, radio, or print spots. For example, I believe the folks at Sobe bought “Thriller” when they ran their Super Bowl ad, though my memory could be playing tricks on me.

At the same time, SEO has emerged as a discipline unto itself, meaning that people can get paid to focus entirely on that. Because this is a specialized and evolving field, every organization should at least hire an SEO consultant or contractor to help get their strategy right. In fact, it will even make sense for some larger organizations to hire a full-time SEO specialist.

In other words, “Yes, SEO is part of marketing AND a separate job.”

What Do You Want to Do with Your Life?

My posts on Aquent’s blog sometimes got kind of philosophical. Here’s an example which should help you dodge the question, “What do you want to do with your life?” It first appeared on September 20, 2008. – Matt

2783320265_8fd07858a1_mAbout twenty years ago, after I had stopped out of grad school, quit my job at SuperShuttle, and was so broke that I made all my family members collages as Christmas presents, my father sat me down for a fireside chat. The gist was: Dude, you got to get it together, figure out what you want to do with your life, and just do it. The problem was, as he put it, “You don’t seem to do anything.”

Was I a lost soul at that point? I suppose I was. My band (Spanking Machine) wasn’t going anywhere, I was unemployed, and, frankly, very depressed. When I returned to San Francisco from that demoralizing holiday in Los Angeles, I got a temp job (thus launching my current career, oddly enough) and wrote my father a letter.

Aside from the fact that the main point of the letter was to ask him for money so I could fix my car (yes, I did that), I also took issue with his criticism of my do-nothing lifestyle. On the one hand, as I pointed out, I did actually do stuff like write page after page of mad-cap, beatnik musings, play music, and hang out with my friends. I also reminded him that there were quite a few cultural and spiritual traditions that emphasized doing nothing over doing something as the true goal of life and enlightenment and that I was not unsympathetic to such views. Moreover, the idea that our lives and the world at large were there as a resource for us to do something with was symptomatic of the Zeitgeist, as Martin Heidegger explained in his essay concerning the question of technology.

Here’s where it gets deep (so watch out). To this very day I bristle at the existential imperative, whether in secular or religious garb, that says you have to do something with your life. There are so many things that are wrong-headed about this notion that I don’t know where to start (or finish), so I’ll just highlight two logical inconsistencies that dog this everyday ethical commonplace.

First of all, “your life.” Aside from the fact that even scientists struggle to define life, what exactly about the life you live is yours? You are, after all, 90% water, which, if I understand it properly, is made of hydrogen and oxygen that has been part of this earth for some billions of years. Add to that the carbon, nitrogen, and other trace elements comprising you as physical entity, you quickly realize that none of them are “yours” strictly speaking. Indeed, your genetic peculiarities are a melange of your father’s and mother’s, as their’s were of their’s, and, in any event, consist of amino acids that are of rather ancient provenance. Etc.

So, the living matter provisionally associated with your life is freely borrowed from the environment and the vast surrounding universe to which it will inevitably return (yes, I’m referring to “your” death). But what about this “you” that is supposed to “do” something with this “life.” First of all, your “you-ness” is inextricably linked to this particular physical entity that perpetually changes (replacing itself every seven years or something like that). Not only that, your sense of yourself, your personality quirks, and your interests are totally contingent on your genetic makeup, your lived experience, and your physical condition. If you doubt this, please experiment with severe brain trauma and review the results.

But turning away from the impermanence and ineffability of your you-ness, how could you do anything with your life in the first place? Usually, in order to do something with anything, you need to distinguish between you and that something. But how can you stand outside your own life which, as we know, is not a thing in the first place? And if people mean, “Create an interesting story or artwork from the events and experiences of your life,” when they say, “Do something with your life,” why don’t they just say that?

Because, frankly, they don’t mean that. They mean, “Do things as part of your life that, retroactively, will have made your life a meaningful something instead of a meaningless nothing.” But, as everyone knows, “meaning” is entirely contextual. Nothing means anything in isolation. Which means that you can never be the judge of whether or not your own life is or was meaningful. That can only be decided by deciders who stand outside of your life and understand all its ramifications, not just in your little world, but in the history of the universe. And the number of deciders who are in a position to do that are either zero, one, or three, depending on your persuasion, none of whom are you, or even human, for that matter.

If you’ve read this far, you get the picture. From here on out, whenever anyone tells you to do something with your life, and you don’t have the time or wherewithal to explain to them what’s wrong with that statement, please have them contact me, and I’ll do the dirty work.

Image Courtesy of mohammadali.