Brazen

Okay, so Seth Godin’s Squidoo is launching a new venture: Brands in Public. There’s a bunch of interesting stuff in Seth’s announcement. It contains some masterful spin, a brazen proposition, and some nice o plata o plomo persuasion. Seth’s a good marketer, so let’s look at his work.

Spin

Brands in Public is basically a pay-to-play hosted service for the discussion of brands. (If the discussed brands want a voice, they need to pay.) You might think that having a (potentially large) part of the “conversation” with your customers happen on a third-party website would be a disadvantage. Not to hear Seth tell it:

While you control the left-hand column and can pepper it with good stuff, it’s still part of a larger site, not “your” page. That means that the number of meetings you need to go to for approvals and permissions is going to decrease. It means that it’s not behind your firewall and not something that has to fit into the larger ├╝ber-corporate strategy.

Without commenting on the merits of the argument, I have to say that this is a great example of “that’s not a bug, that’s a feature”. I would have been hard pressed to discuss this aspect of the service with anything but embarassment. (That’s not a snarky put-down of the service, that’s real admiration for the argument.)

Brazen

I love the audaciousness of the idea: On the web, where publication has essentially zero cost, Seth is going to charge organizations (which already have massive media and web presences) ~$5000/year to publish press releases in his walled garden. On the face of it, this is crazy talk. But Seth does a good job of salesmanship ….

O Plata o Plomo

“O plata o plomo” is a Spanish phrase, commonly associated with Columbian druglords, that means “the silver or the lead”, as in: You can be bribed with silver, or murdered with lead. It’s a cute method of persuasion, especially when done subtly.

Seth’s pitch for “Brands in Public” seems, to me, to have a good deal of this flavor. “Hey guys!”, he says. “Nice brand you got there. Would be a shame if anything happened to it. By the way, we’re going to be collecting everything anyone says about you. This collection will probably be seen by lots of people. For a fee, you can put your own content right up front with this collection of stuff; it’s a great opportunity to talk to people who are interested in you. If you don’t take advantage of this generous offer, of course, then that page will be given over to whatever random comments are floating around the Internet. And you know what jerks people can be on the Internet. Whiners. And, when they’re happy, do they tweet? No! Only when they’re upset. Yep, it would be Just Too Bad if your brand were damaged by the distilled and concentrated commentary on it pulled off the Internet. For just $400/mo (and you probably have signing authority for that, right?) you can manage this problem, and even turn this platform to your advantage.”

I’m sorry if this comes off as nasty – I really do admire the boldness of this idea. I just enjoy casting things in the starkest possible light. We’ll have to see how this venture fares; I’m guessing it will largely depend on how the search engines treat the Brands in Public pages, and on the costs of maintaining them. (“Algorithmic” approaches to content often produce output of questionable quality.)

Update: Seth has revised the operations of Brands in Public to eliminate unsolicited aggregation pages. 90% less threatening!

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