Will Commercialization Kill the Cool?

Online spaces, like any other business goes through The Clown Suit Syndrome / Jump The Shark desperation evident when TV programs fail.

The current hype around social networks documented so well by Pete here on this mashable post and the Ad Age speculations that follow are no different. When you change what makes something original and cool you’re simply asking for trouble. Enter clown suits and shark ramps...

If you’ve ever participated in a social network, you’ve already seen what happens when the conversation goes from stimulating to “self promotional” to the utterly lame. The exodus happens when the original reason people come to a social network gets displaced by what Ernie Mosteller called "late adopter" participation (in a recent conversation we just had) that have nothing to do with what attracted the interesting conversations there in the first place.

The last era of marketing bottled “cool” for sale so often with reasonable success that most in the profession believe that anyplace with eyeballs mean “captive” audiences. They are sadly mistaken in my humble opinion. It’s not just my faint little rant at the edge of the blogosphere, its the rules of human nature.

We are social to satisfy a need. Unless that need is understood, no amount of marketing is going to have an impact. Just as multi-level marketers killed the party over at Ryze, the banner ads and shameless plugs will likely do the same at MySpace and GoogTube.

Mindsdhare is about meaning. Meaning happens when we are able to share the other person’s context. In other words, you have to “get” what they are into rather than using their space to push your own agenda. Seth makes a great point about that here. So does OM Malik as he breaks down what is really important for social networks here. For all the hypemongers rushing to create their own little 1.6 billion dollar paradise, it might pay more to listen.

Cool is about originality, it can’t be “contextually advertised” to become relevant to people who didn’t ask for it. Commerce is nothing more than an exchange of value, and that is absolutely natural. “Commercialization” however becomes a dirty word in today’s context because the attempts to date are “unnatural” because they go against the real reasons behind human behavior. Interestingly, we now have a medium (The Internet) that mimics biological connections. Commercialization doesn't have to be ugly. We can innovate towards a better, more meaningful solution.

2 Responses to “Will Commercialization Kill the Cool?”

  1. # Blogger mpattyfly

    Ray, you are definitely on to some great indicators here...there are always individuals trying to force an existing model of advertising onto a medium that does not and cannot contain it. My belief is that the merger and Google and YouTube will make that bitterly clear..imo you can't put "contextual advertising" and video viewership together. They are going to have to come up with a better hybrid than that...we'll see!  

  2. # Blogger Stuart

    Ray,
    A great blog.
    Your comments echo my own thoughts on the degradation in quality of some social networks. Decent blogs or articles turn into self-promo's. The next thing you know everyone is a seller and there are a handful of buyers.
    Because of this there is no real value perceived by the membership such that they will part with "top dollar". As a result of this, the next thing to arrive the banner ad's and worse still those irritating flash ad's that drop over the browser.

    "Commercialization doesn't have to be ugly. We can innovate towards a better, more meaningful solution."
    I think to too few people understand commercialisation in/on the internet. You wouldn't ask someone in the street who you'd never met to buy your product and yet that's what many do on social networks. Also, I think that many feel that they should avoid commercialisation for fear of competition rather than embrace it to either become competitor or collaborator. I know where I stand!

    Stuart
    http://www.stuart-oliver.com/blog  

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