Sometimes you come across lessons or tips in the least likely places.  For instance, check out this scene (here is the video clip) from the 2007 film American Gangster:

Frank Lucas: What is that you got on?
Huey Lucas: What? This?
Frank Lucas: Yeah, that.
Huey Lucas: This is a very, very, very nice suit.
Frank Lucas: That’s a very, very, very nice suit, huh?
Huey Lucas: Yeah.
Frank Lucas: That’s a clown suit. That’s a costume, with a big sign on it that says “Arrest me”. You understand? You’re too loud, you’re making too much noise. Listen to me, the loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.

So how is this related to marketing? 

For those who haven’t seen the movie, Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) is the mastermind of a massive heroin-dealing operation – he is smart and a self-made man, albeit one that deals mostly in illegal activities (kids, don’t do drugs).  Anyways, during most of the film his style is subdued and quietly confident, nothing flashy or blingy.  He had a certain elegant power and he did not need to be the center of attention.  And his downfall begins when he forgets his own advice and wears a showstopping chinchilla coat and sits ringside at a fight, and therefore catches the eye of law enforcement, and it all goes downhill from there. 

Of course, part of the reason that Frank Lucas didn’t want to draw attention to himself is because he was doing things that were illegal; also, his product was the sort that sells itself.  But when he says that “the loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room”, well, he has a point.  The product that has the most gimmicks or the person that is always trying to “network” and to brand him/herself and generally makes it all about them – the loudest ones in the room – are usually the least useful (the gimmicky product) or come across as pushy or desperate (not exactly attractive qualities). 

Obviously this doesn’t mean that all marketing or promotion is bad, or that you should rarely speak, but rather that there is a lot of power in simply having a superior product, a better price, or an impressive skill set (Frank Lucas’s product, “Blue Magic”, was both stronger and cheaper than the heroin currently on the market).  Granted, heroin is dangerous and addictive and such, but the concept can be applied in a positive fashion. 

There is a lot of noise out there about advertising, branding, marketing, search engine optimization (as well as a lot of sites that are basically well-optimized ad-stuffed crap) and other forms of promotion – some of it is valuable and a lot of it is bullshit.  The good advice tends to focus on adding value and telling people how you can improve their lives in some way; the bad advice tends to focus on simply getting attention.  Well, the loudest or flashiest person in the room gets attention too – but if it is not positive, then what is the point?

How To Get Blogged

March 13, 2008

Cory Doctorow (co-editor of the ultra-popular Boing Boing) has an article in Information Week about how to get bloggers to write about you – and as someone who blogs, and contributes to many other blogs and websites, I have to say his tips are solid.

Here’s the link: 17 Tips For Getting Bloggers To Write About You.

And because it bears repeating: using tons of Flash almost always does more harm than good.  It is like the web equivalent of a really gorgeous shoe with a five inch stiletto heel – sometimes beautiful to look at, but not exactly user-friendly.

The Power of Word of Mouth

December 13, 2007

This article from Newswise suggests that good old-fashioned word of mouth might be more valuable than previously thought, especially on the web.

It’s not surprising of an idea, really:

“It’s always been this way. What’s changed is that digital media makes it so easy for everyone to forward messages to contacts within their social networks. For most everyone, digital media just extends a very human desire to help others.”

I think that last sentence applies especially well to bloggers.  After all, while dedicated bloggers may indeed make money or otherwise gain from their blogs, I have a feeling that many got started in order to share their knowledge, skills, or simply to entertain others.