The Ocean-Marketing Lesson Everyone Missed
By Ken Magill
Lost in the worldwide coverage of the Ocean-Marketing fiasco has been the single most important lesson for marketers and publishers when it comes to engaging customers and prospects.
For those who may have missed the most riveting marketing story of 2011, an email exchange was published last week on Penny Arcade in which Paul Christoforo, president of a firm called Ocean Marketing, became shockingly abusive with a customer inquiring about an order.
Most chalked it up to a lesson in how not to deliver customer service. But that wasn’t the lesson.
Anyone who could learn anything from the now-infamous exchange between Christoforo and a customer named Dave has no business getting anywhere near earshot of customers or prospects, much less communicating directly with them.
And, no, the lesson for marketers and publishers in the Ocean-Marketing incident wasn’t about the power of word-of-mouth, the Internet and social media.
The real lesson in the Christoforo meltdown was about content: the sole reason his abusive exchange with Dave went viral.
The content of Christoforo’s emails was unhinged, shocking and by-god-beautiful-in-its-jaw-dropping inappropriateness. It was different, entertaining and riveting. And for that it went spectacularly viral.
Should marketers try and emulate Christoforo? Absolutely, but in a very narrow sense.
These days practically everyone’s a content creator. But most of the content on the Internet is mediocre to crap. Just go to any corporate website and click on the “about us” tab for an example.
And lest some folks think I’m just an old-media hack bemoaning that fact that I can’t gate-keep anymore, nothing could be further from the truth. Professional media outfits are easily cranking out as much garbage as the amateurs.
Why? Because the people in charge at most publishers are mostly focused on the wrong things—page views and search-engine rankings, for example.
Christoforo’s emails were borderline incomprehensible, but from a content standpoint they were online-publishing gold. Just ask Penny Arcade publisher Mike Krahulik. He knew a social-media shit storm in the making when he saw it.
Christoforo’s emails offered readers a compelling experience they couldn’t get anywhere else. They were wildly different from everything else people were wading through that day. And boy, were they fun.
Before I left my last publisher, I attended a few meetings on where the company was headed and what its writers and editors should do to position it for the 21st century.
Invariably, writing techniques for getting search-engine rankings came up. Repurposing content for the various newsletters and blogs in an effort to create volume was also a regular topic.
What never came up—not ever—was content quality.
“Stuff you’ve edited out of a story or parts of an interview you didn’t use can make for a blog post,” said one colleague [paraphrasing].
I didn’t use that stuff for a reason. I deemed it unworthy of my readers’ standards because I respect their time.
When content creators and publishers think in terms of tonnage for tonnage’s sake and search-engine rankings, they are showing incredible disrespect for would-be content consumers’ time.
Successful online content creation isn’t about volume. It’s about delivering a unique experience that is useful, valuable, educational or entertaining—in the best of all worlds, all four.
The Ocean-Marketing fiasco delivered unique and entertaining in spades.
A recent study by Microsoft of its Hotmail email address holders determined that more than half of their messages are newsletters and deals.
That’s a lot of commercial noise to contend with. The way to beat it is by standing out and offering a valuable experience no one else does—without being abusive, of course.