Is Pinko Marketing Economically Viable?

posted by alex

Last night I attended the monthly AttentionTrust meet-up and heard Tara state the five principles of Pinko marketing.

  • Inbound rather than outbound messages (aka “listening” more than “talking”)
  • Be a community advocate
  • 100 % authenticity
  • “Nichification”
  • Adopting open source principles

For me, the discussion of these principles reflects an ongoing change in the world today. As supply is exploding we are finding more and more things to spend our attention on and thus the job of the marketer is changing.

One outcome of this is that the higher level of commitment suggested by the Pinko principles (from both the consumer and the company) reveals a situation of potentially increased trust. The increased trust would come as a welcoming to many companies that today face increasing consumer brand disloyalty. Today, due to abundant supply and with it low switching costs, loyalty must be sought by making the user want to remain loyal. In building community around a product the company is seeking to establishing stronger relationships with its customers. The trust in this relationship can create an emotional stickiness in an ethical way (i.e. not technical tie-ins) thus increasing consumer loyalty.

However, in these days when just about anybody seems to be promoting deeper relationships with almost anything and anyone, it’s worth pointing out that relationships (as opposed to single transactions) are not always beneficial. Just like the Swedish markets-as-networks perspective has stated since the early days of LG Mattson–relationships are extremely expensive both in time and attention. There comes a point where the energy of adding another weak-tie takes time/attention away from the existing stronger ties and by simple economics is not profitable for neither consumer nor company. So the value lies not in creating a big community with many relationships but rather in establishing and maintaining meaningful ones.

Ok, so let’s think. Relationships are expensive. Listening is expensive. Being niche means excluding and risk of revenue loss. Business models for companies adopting open-source principle are still hard to find but at the same time evolving into something highly exciting. Is this really economically viable?

Instinctively one assumes that the Pinko ideas suggest the marketed product becomes something of high-involvement, meaning high attention for both the customer and company. However, Ed Batista puts forward a great point related to AttentionTrust and the attention recorder. Listening is not necessarily about reading an email, taking a support call, meeting consumers. Listening is about any activity that helps you stay attune to what the users think, explicit or implicit. Through implicit customer feedback, such as site statistics, clicktrails, heatmaps etc. a company can learn much about what customers want without either party having to engage in an expensive traditional conversation. The trick is of course for the company to a) make sure that the customer agrees on “talking” in this manner (i.e. that the company is permitted to listen to the implicit cues) and b) understand what the user means by her implicit actions. By understanding the implicit cues a user gives, a company can engage in high-involvement relationships but with low-attention cost for both company and user.

So, the key to making Pinko marketing economically viable is in finding an appropriate listening strategy that makes the the barriers to speak low for the consumer and enables low attention costs for both consumer and company. But then, of course, unless you are also willing and agile enough to act upon what you are hearing–listening will never do you any good.


posted by alex

Phew! It’s been a hectic start of the project due to the relocation combined with the amount of events San Francisco has to offer. We spent a few days finding a place to live before hooking up with Felix Petersen and Stefan Kellner from Plazes (both here for the Where2.0 conference). The four of us went of on an excruciating but ah, sublimely beautiful three-day hike in Yosemite park (highly recommended!).

Felix introduced us to Chris Messina and Tara Hunt from Citizen Agency, Pinko marketing & Spread Firefox which turned out to be the same people behind the San Francisco Coworking initiative that we’d been checking out as a potential temporary shared office space. We still haven’t checked it out but according to Chris & Tara it’s a really nice, though still slightly rough, creative space in the start-up. Conveniently located a few blocks from our house it does sound pretty perfect.

Eric at Supernova 2006Chris & Tara were also the arrangers of both the MashPit and BarCamp SF unconferences that we attended during the following week. Mashpit gave us the opportunity to meet up with the legendary box-model hack author Tantek Celik that also, according to Felix, is the single most active Plazes tagger on the planet… It’s pretty easy to imagine Tantek wardriving all over San Francisco tagging up every open WiFi he can find! By the way, thanks to Kevin Werbach for hosting MashPit, unfortunately his own Supernova conference was pretty much a disappointment. The whole Supernova event felt stiff and the fact that there was only one track of talks inevitably made it tough to stay interested. We had been looking forward to the panel discussion by Seth Goldstein (Root Markets), John McCrea (Plaxo) and Kyle Brinkman (MySpace) but in all honesty it didn’t amount to much at all. Seth Goldstein was pushing the ideas that are highly interesting but didn’t seem to connect to John or Kyle – who on the other hand seemed completely out and disconnected all together.