Gonzo, minus the mescaline

Gonzo Marketing is great fun to read, is full of interesting insights into the past and present of marketing, but comes to the completely wrong conclusion about its future.

Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices

By Christopher Locke

Gonzo Marketing is great fun to read, is full of interesting insights into the past and present of marketing, but comes to the completely wrong conclusion about its future.

Locke’s main contribution to the Discussion is the idea that corporations should turn themselves into what amounts to web-based, multi-level relationship marketers. Micromarketers, if you prefer. He recommends that groups of employees be given time and resources to create Web sites based on topics of interest to them. The best of these sites would then be linked to external communities that share those interests, so that the employees can establish trust-building dialogues with current and potential customers, which would in turn engender strong corporate goodwill and better customer relationships.

The logical fallacy of Locke’s idea is that, at the same time he’s ranting about how the Web is inherently anti-corporate, he’s trying to find ways for corporations to capitalize on it by sneaking in under the radar. If I see my favourite organic nude sailing site linked to sites that are ‘Underwritten by Ford,’ or see newsgroups populated by Ford employees, I’m going to have a visceral reaction based on my perception of Ford regardless of how sneaky they had to be to get in my face.

This ‘gonzo’ model is crazy, anarchic, and well beyond the control of prudent corporate standards. Locke’s point is, however, that Joe in shipping already has responsibility for the brand, so let’s get him aligned and working for us. Fair enough, but I just think this particular execution of that concept is poorly thought out. Locke would agree, and insist that’s the ‘gonzo’ part.

Is Locke a visionary or snake-oil salesman? You can’t afford not to decide. According to Locke, Ford recently bought 350,000 computers with Internet hook-ups for all its employees worldwide. Hopefully they’ll think up a better model.

BookMark Rating: 2 out of 5

Mark Szabo is a senior strategist with Parallel in Calgary. He can be reached at mark.szabo@parallel.ca.