The Vaporization of Marketing

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Was your company blogging ten years ago? If not then why? Google made it easy for you and now you’ve lost ten years of priceless link juice. Given the fragmentation of media in the last ten years, it’s clear now just how relatively little work you actually had to do back then. But that’s in the past. Still, I have bad news for you: what you have to do now is far harder than it was ten years ago. Let me explain.


As the Web expands and proliferates novel media, messaging becomes increasingly diffuse and fragmented. The Web creates new opportunities and destroys old standards. It disrupts communication patterns, rattles social structures and ruptures attention spans. Ten years ago, you could leverage your audience-building skills for acquiring and retaining customers. You could even have learned and mastered a skill which traditional marketing didn’t really demand: conversational aptitude.

But now the honor of your presence demands you to be at many different places at once. You not only need to know how to create captivating content but you also need to know how to converse and lead with such conviction and remarkability that it could almost require you to be loved.

The choices open to you grow. Where to begin? Where to be? Twitter? Facebook? Blogs? Youtube? Foursquare? Gowalla? Flickr? The dozens of other places yet to come along? And if you show up and listen and play, will you be good at it? If you’re not good at it, you’re not going to achieve anything.

Here’s the biggest challenge for companies struggling to “figure out” social media: the convergence of Strategy and Practice becomes increasingly elusive as the Web mercilessly evolves.

What do I mean? Strategy and vision are essential parts of ultimately getting business done. But strategy without planning and mechanics and process worked out, nothing gets done: the going concern becomes aimless and bankrupt. Much of the daily work that has to be accomplished online has to be done manually and personally. Furthermore, the work has to stand out so it can be kindly remarked from one person to another.

Much of this work may not fit into any strategic category; as a consequence, the strategic directives can easily diffuse and lose their trajectories. Once that happens, it’s easy to lose balance and focus and clarity.


The one question every executive asks every time a marketing or PR agency or internal manager tries to push social media is this: What on earth is the point?

Many of us who live in the echo chamber have answers. Or statements we think are answers. The truth is, however, that this is a vital question. The whole enterprise depends on it.

There’s no doubt: the Web is the place to be; and companies need the skills and confidence to incorporate all media into their day-to-day routine. But the vaporization of the Web creates a situation where:

  • so many choices have to be made;
  • conversations need to be quality and sincere;
  • attention spans are short;
  • messages are now real-time;
  • traditional Search is being disrupted;
  • new technologies are emerging which don’t necessarily communicate well with other
  • the prospect of walled gardens is rearing its head

Contrary to Social Media evangelist claims, the Web is becoming a mess. Messaging is being liquified, subject to evaporation – and worse: your message can be easily replaced with someone else’s within seconds.

Marketers used to have a landscape they could map out. They could harvest farms of attention. They could plant their feet on the ground and develop real estate which they could mostly control.

But the new landscape isn’t on land. It’s vaporizing. The vaporization of marketing will get worse. Not every business will figure out the point of being online, let alone be able to cultivate a captivated audience and converse real-time. Most will just be talking to themselves and an imaginary audience.

That’s what happened to Pharma giant GSK because they had too many meetings and consults and fears on how to do something as simple as running a blog. Mind you: this is a company with over $40 Billion in assets and which employs some of the smartest people in the world. From an investor’s perspective that’s managerial irresponsibility, indicative of severe creative anemia.

What’s the point? isn’t something you ask and answer once and then move on. No: it’s a daily question. It’s no different than asking What’s the point of our business?

The problem is this: there isn’t a point. Or one single point I should say. There are many points. All kinds of purposes and opportunities and needs. A thousand points of light flashing and fading and distracting.

This is only good news for marketers who have creativity, muscle, chutzpah, intelligence, pliancy and permission. For the rest, it’s a disaster waiting to happen – no matter if you play or not. The Vaporizing Web is Scylla and Charybdis for businesses.


What to do? You can read a million how-to posts, hire big agencies who know how to price and bill, attend overpriced conferences or have tons of meetings littered with streams of buzzword-stuffed PowerPoint presentations. But I’ll give you one simple answer:

Don’t take it so seriously! If you do, you’ll vanish into a mushroom cloud. 🙂

A sense of humor and a style of lightness are enduring qualities of successful long-run presence, especially online. Once operations become chores and jobs they cease to be useful. The Web is the end of the assembly-line.

If your business doesn’t know how to have fun and to be spontaneous and swift, it probably won’t survive this century. Capitalism is destructively creative. It’s also creatively destructive. The Age of the Farmer is coming to its close. It’s Hunting time now. Prepare yourself for war.

You’ve been warned and advised. Questions? Call me: 484-372-0451 or Skype: Phil.J.Baumann or Twitter: @PhilBaumann.

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A Clinical Infusion of Google Wave

Getting beyond the hype and anti-hype over Google Wave, I’ve been exploring and experimenting with the collaboration platform since my invitation. While learning the new features and interacting with others on the service, I’m gaining some appreciation for the underlying technology Google claims will revolutionize how we communicate and collaborate.

I plan on a few more detailed posts and screencasts demonstrating Wave’s features, but here are some general ideas (at this point I’m running on science fiction) about how Wave (or its future analogues) could be used in a clinical setting. For a general overview, Mashable offers a comprehensive guide. I’ll offer a simple overview, but the main point of this post is to help answer the question: Does the underlying technology of Wave offer us any glimpse into improving clinical collaboration? It’s something ER physician Tim Sturgill asked recently (see his Person, Story, Data mock-up).

First the basics:

  • A Wave is the main component of the service – think of it is the main whiteboard containing all of the content and media to be generated, edited, communicated and collaborated around.
  • A Blip is the most basic unit of a Wave – similar to an IM message or a tweet.
  • A Wavelet is a thread of blips within a wave. You can have multiple wavelets within a wave.
  • Extensions: these invoke and provide additional functionalities beyond the basic communication basics of the service. There are two types: Robots and Gadgets.

Advanced Features: Robots & Gadgets:

It’s hard to visualize what a Wave Robot does, but in essence it “infuses” a wave with one or more functions. (I’m leaving out discussion of Gadgets in this post.) This is where Wave can get confusing but it’s also where Wave’s powers potentially shine. Here’s a list of Google Wave Extensions and Google’s samples gallery.

For example, there’s a robot called Cartoony which converts blips into cartoon bubbles. Surely this is frivolous, but when you see it in action, you realize what I mean by robots “infusing a wave with functionality”.

Another, more utilitarian bot is BingyBot, which answers participants questions. If you type a query, BingyBot acts like a regular participant offering you answers. Here’s short  video of it in action:

It’s these abilities of robots to infuse a wave with rich features which could prove useful in a clinical setting. Let me explain with a sci-fi hypothetical.

For purposes of this example we will set aside HIPAA & other privacy matters. Tall order, I understand – but I want us to envision what’s possible. Imagine a wave created by a physician in which she assembles key data about a patient’s admission, including media such as videos or images of diagnostic or surgical procedures.

Around those data elements, our physician could invite colleagues into the wave for clinical collaboration, opinion, etc. Similar processes are already being used in some facilities, but the next part is where Wave’s protocol gets interesting.

Remember the BingyBot? Now imagine introducing a clinical bot which is powerful enough to provide pertinent information to enhance the entire collaborative effort. Let’s call it ClinyBot. Say the bot can access research data or even link to relevant clinical trials for which the patient/case relates.

In essence, the bot would act as another participant to say something like Given the set of data I’m seeing, you may find this article on an experimental anti-neoplastic agent of interest. Or It seems like this patient may be a possible candidate for this clinical trial. Or Dr. Smith had these thoughts about this patient’s condition last week. You get the idea.

ClinyBot would “infuse” the clinical collaboration wave without being intrusive. And the bot could even be modified by the clinical collaborators during the wave according to their needs. Rather than clinicians pulling away from their patient data screen to perform research via another interface, the research can be done within the wave in real-time: either by manually invoking a particular function or letting robots do some of the work.

This is a new kind of collaboration because not only are human beings collaborating real-time around the same problem, a sophisticated piece of technology becomes a collaborator as well. We already have a robotic collaborator we use everyday: Google Search.

Yes, It’s Sci-Fi-y But So Was The Web

Does Google Wave represent a significant step forward in collaboration? I’m reserving judgment until I see development of its API – the current interface does not support proper filtering, notifying or other ways to curate and manage the copious flow of information.

Nevertheless, Wave tests users’ willingness to adapt communication skills to new media. It would be nice to see at least a mock case illustration of clinicians playing in a sandbox.

Of course ClinyBot itself is a figment of sci-fi imagination currently, but the thought-experiment demonstrates why clinicians may want to invest a little time understanding what the underlying technology of Google Wave may do for enhancing collaboration – and ultimately improving patient care.

If this is your field then do this: take a snapshot of where we are today in clinical collaboration and look out through the lens I’m offering; then find some realistic place in between and start building tomorrow today.

PS: This post started out of this wave (which, for now, you only see if you have a Wave account).

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