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February 24, 2010

Find the Web Contrarian In You

In the beginning there were websites, and marketers looked upon them and said, they were good. Websites begot search engine optimization and the number crunchers looked upon it and said it was very good. Search engine optimization begot social media and everyone looked upon it and said, this is hot. MySpace begot Facebook that begot Linkedin that begot Twitter and everyone said, “I got a headache,” to which all I can say is remember Tulip Mania.

The Tulip Mania

In 1637 speculation in tulip bulb futures hit its peak. Contracts for tulip bulbs were selling for more than ten times the annual income of a skilled worker. And of course this was followed by a disastrous collapse foreshadowing what was to come some 292 years later.

In 1841 Charles Mackay wrote “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” that outlined how following the crowd can lead to unfortunate results. Such patterns of mass-behavior continue today without letup, and with dire consequences as can be seen in the recent economic meltdown.

Despite this continual repetition of behavior some have learned to use The Theory of Contrary Thinking as a marketing communication principle that avoids the lemming-like behavior of most people, and more to the point most businesses. By the way, lemmings do not commit suicide by running off the Bow River Bridge despite the 1958 nature film by Uncle Walt.

Just because everyone does it, says it, or promotes it, doesn’t make it right or effective. There is nothing wrong with participating in many of these social networking vehicles, but they are only one vehicle and should not be used to the exclusion and investment in other forms of marketing communication.

If you want your business to standout from your competitors in an overcrowded marketplace, namely the Web, then you have to think differently. No one becomes a market leader by being a follower. Finding the contrarian in you is not easy for most business people trained in technical skills, accounting, and strict bottom-line decision-making. But business is more art than science and unless you adopt a more creative approach to how you communicate to your audience you will be caught in the next version of tulip mania.