I sat next to a guy recently on a flight who was reading two books at the same time.  One was ‘Outliers’ by Malcom Gladwell.  The other was ‘Groundswell’ by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff.

Most people don’t read two books at the same time unless there is a specific reason.  So I asked.  “Hey, why are you reading those two books?”

His answer was simple.  “I want to understand what drives marketing.  I want to try and understand where out-of-left-field great ideas come from.”  He continued, “I am trying to get my head around what makes good marketing tick.  There has to be a science in there somewhere.  I at least want to understand there is…or can be a science…that it is more than luck and B.S.”

Turns out he recently bought a 45 million dollar company that used to be a 100 million dollar company.  He was on his way home from a board meeting he had hosted.  Most of the ‘strategies’ bubbled up by his marketing team and agency were, from his perspective, cart-before the horse- stuff.

I said, sounds like you have a lot of bricks but no building.  “Exactly!”  He exclaimed.  We spent the rest of the flight talking about the nuts and bolts of customer engagement.

“Wow!”  He said.  I’ve never thought that marketing is as much operational as promotional.  Then he was quiet.  ‘”So why is it that none of my team gets this?”

Didn’t have an answer for that one, except this. “Sacred cows are hard to slaughter, especially if that cow gives you milk.  Marketers, like technologists, get enamored with Shiny Pennies.  Marketers, more than anyone, love the echo chamber.  Preaching to the choir.  Hearing ‘Amen!’ rather than ‘Hey, wait a minute.’

The conversation waned and I turned on my i-pod and cued up a podcast I hadn’t listened to in a long time but a sure favorite….twit.tv (This Week in Tech).  There was something about the show’s format…informational, conversational, some relevant guests…a chat amongst smart people with an opinion…who didn’t always agree.  Hmmm.

I tapped the guy next to me and handed him my Bose headphones.  “Listen to this.”  I asked. “Imagine the topic wasn’t technology but customer engagement.”  I asked him to imagine the conversation being centered around all things customer centric.  The theory and the practices.  Slaying sacred cows, showcasing results, proving the echo chamber to be what it is…a useless indulgence.

He smiled and said to me, “Well, it would be required listening for my team.  What’s it called?”

I responded. “ I don’t know.  You and I just invented it.”  So where ever you are Jim K., thanks!

This week, Socializing Media:  The Podcast launches.  We’ll air one every two weeks.  Our first guest is Cow-slayer, Emanuel Rosen, author of the best sellers ‘Anatomy of Buzz’ and ‘Anatormy of Buzz Revisited’.  Following that, we have the former CMO of Motorola (and head of Apple’s marketing prior to that), also the brains behind Dell’s Idea Storm and a host of other interesting people with exciting and relevant stories, NONE of which feed the echo chamber!

So Sacred Cows beware, I have stocked up on my A-1 sauce.

Steve Hershberger

Steve Hershberger