The Chaos Scenario – Part 4

disruptiveIn the previous blog, we expanded on The Chaos Scenario, Bob Garfield’s thought-provoking book that says business has no choice except to practice Listenomics – to listen to the consumer instead of talking at them.

This blog is set up as a Q&A. It is NOT verbatim. It is based on the sense of the long conversation Bob and I had. Bob has gone over all the text and said — and this IS verbatim — “looks good to me.”

Advertising Is Not The Future

John: You seem pretty hard on the 30 second spot and other ‘traditional’ ways to market. What is the role of advertising as we go forward?

Bob: Advertising is not the future of marketing.

John: That’s a pretty bold statement.

Bob: Companies have to find alternatives to traditional advertising. To turn customers into flesh and blood is slow and time consuming – the ultimate micro-enterprise. But, it pays off.

John: What else?

Ad Relevance – Death and Weekend Car Rentals

Bob: Focus on ad relevance. Ads with greater relevance can command 10 times greater a price than one served randomly.

John: In your book, you made a great case for relevance when you showed that the #1 correlation for weekend car rentals was ‘recently read an online obituary’. In other words, if I’m Hertz, I might want to put more ads close to the online obituaries and fewer in the ‘weekend’ categories.

Bob: Yes, we need to think like the customer. Get into their frame of mind.

Shopping and Buying Are Different

John: You mention that consumer purchasing behavior is not necessarily guided by or even always correlated with shopping behavior. In other words, the way we ‘shop’ isn’t necessarily the way we ‘buy’.

Bob: Right, we ‘buy’ on impulse (and the key is) being reminded, more or less serendipitously, that a product will fulfill a desire or need.

John: So, that’s why the behavioral targeting company, Tacoda, says they want to ‘automate serendipity’.


Bob: Yes, they want to do a better job of ‘filtering’.

We suffer from ‘filtering failure’, not from information overload. The more something can be filtered to really focus in on our need, the more likely it will be effective.

John: But, we’re not there yet. Isn’t a lot of the ‘targeting’ on the internet istill in its infancy?

Online Targeting Has A Long Way to Go

Bob: Yes. For example, think about something as simple as targeting based on key words and phrases. Consumers can’t even agree on what things mean.

If given the same text, two individuals asked to categorize words and phrases as positive or negative will agree only 57% of the time.

John: In other words, even if they see the exact same word or phrase, almost half will disagree about whether the word or phrase is positive or negative?

Bob: Yes.

John: This suggests that online ‘targeting’, especially based on keywords and phrases, still has a long way to go.

Bob: They are still working on it.

Lies, Lies and The Truth

John: It sounds like we still have a lot to learn about how the internet functions as a communication tool – which has ramifications for marketing.

In The Chaos Scenario, I was surprised to learn that when an authoritative source tries to correct a lie, the lie has a good chance of succeeding.

You quoted a 2007 study showing that “attempts to correct misinformation not only tend to reinforce people’s false beliefs, but to attribute the baloney (misinformation) to the very authoritative source trying to clear things up.”

This astonished me. That so many people don’t accept the truth when presented with facts to support it, but rather hunker down with their ‘false’ beliefs and blame the ‘truth’ for trying to change their minds.

This has huge ramifications for politics, advertising and the role of the internet.

Shared Cultural Context

Bob: Consumers (people) aren’t rational. Online marketing is still a work in progress.

In the past, advertising was part of our ‘shared cultural context’. We saw the same ad and talked to each other about it. Now, it’s easy to miss an ad or even an entire campaign.

Today, YouTube has become a big part of our ‘shared cultural context’ because we hunger for things we can discuss.

John: So, YouTube becomes part of the conversation.

To me, this suggests that the internet will have contradictory roles going forward.

On one hand, it will atomize our behaviors. We will look for very specific things that interest us and ignore those that don’t. This might include opinions – we will only look for those that agree with ours.

On the other hand, we will look for commonalities, things we can talk about with others. Yet, we assume that merely emailing something is actually a ‘conversation’.

We send a joke in an email but we don’t hear the laugh. We just assume our friend ‘got it’. We forward an email clip and don’t really care if the receiver even acknowledges it.

This seems to tie in with your idea that the consumer is really picking up on ‘the opportunity to broadcast themselves’.

Bob: Yes, it’s a brand new world. Listenomics will allow you to tap into these conversations. But those with their head in the sand are not likely to survive.

Sales of The Chaos Scenario

John: How’s the book selling so far?

Bob: Online and bookstore sales are going up every week. And, we’ve sold thousands more on Kindle.


John: Thanks, Bob. As I understand it, you are saying that the digital world has hollowed out the traditional relationship between advertising and ‘broadcast’ distribution – it is imploding.

The cost of advertising will go down – almost everywhere.

The new model doesn’t scale well for a lot of ‘traditional’ media businesses – and it isn’t going to anytime soon.

There are lots of opportunities for those who listen to the conversations that their customers are having – whether Twitter, blogs, comment posts or something else.

Some of these opportunities might include:

  • Providing better ‘filters’
  • Tapping into ‘shared cultural context’
  • Formalizing Listenomics inside your company.
  • Formalizing Listenomics might include such things as engaging customers in R&D or creating systems for tracking customer insights and feedback.

One Response to “The Chaos Scenario – Part 4”

  1. JP,

    A very fine interview series with Garfield. Many new opportunities for those who truly practice ‘listenonmics’.
    Those who dig into old ways will find it tough to survive in this new era.


    Mr. C

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