Pinko marketing: towards a new language

Those of us that believe that traditional marketing is no longer working for huge and influential swaths of people are listening and learning how to operate in a world without big media messages.

One bucket term that Tara Hunt has coined to hold all the things that we think will work is Pinko Marketing.

Loosely defined, pinko marketing is marketing where we acknowledge that we have limited control over “our” brands – and how our product is perceived and used. And it’s marketing where we acknowledge that what the community of clients and could-be-clients and definitely-not-clients says and thinks and does around our products and our companies is a lot more important that what we’re putting in our brochures … so we better sit up and listen hard.

But a problem with this revolutionary idea is – as with any revolution – language. Those who own the language have already tilted the debate in their favor. Don’t think that’s important? Consider the 30 million results for the counter-revolutionary term “consumer generated media.”


Yes! And not only counter-revolutionary … it’s an oxymoron, just as bad as jumbo shrimp and progressive conservative, British humor and American culture.

(Sorry, low blow! Just joking! Somebody give me one for Canada and I’ll stick it in – we can all be equally insulted.)

Consumers consume, right? Only producers produce. So how can consumer generated media (CGM) be both consumer AND generated? Contradiction in terms.

The term is counter-revolutionary because it defines you and me … and everyone else who buys a stick of gum from a corner store … as consumers. And we aren’t. We’re producers. And fathers. Mothers. Sisters and brothers. Business owners and employees. And yes, we eat and buy stuff too.

But we hate it when people wearing shiny suits in big offices in tall buildings tell us how we will be defined. No one axis captures all our complexity.

So we need a new language. We need new terminology that describes us, and describes what we are trying to do. It’s new language for new marketing.

Don’t be mistaken. We’re not getting utopian here. Just because there’s been an increased level of realization that people matter, communities matter, grassroots matters, and our megaphone is being taken away to be chopped up into a thousand pieces and used by a thousand publishers doesn’t mean that we don’t have products to sell.

But we want to understand and be clear: what are the connotations behind the denotations? What are the critical terms we should be thinking of?

Here’s a few that I’m thinking of. (By no means is this list complete or canonical – please add/edit/extend it if you wish!)

Some examples:

  • Consumer
    This is the most obvious one. When I hear this I think of a big fat mouth opening wide to devour anything it can. What can we replace this with?

    The most obvious is producer. And it’s a good term – for some. Let’s be honest. In many communities (Digg, Slashdot, political parties, clubs) the producing members are a fraction of the total.

    But that doesn’t mean the others are consumers. I wonder if a better term isn’t citizen. A la Citizen Agency?

  • User-generated
    I don’t like the term user either, and I say that as a technologist who has often used the term to refer to people who are “using” my sites.

    But what do we replace it with? All kinds of awkward constructions like “people media” come to mind. But ideally a term must be simple and elegant, and I’m not sure that one is.

    A thought: what do we call media that “users” don’t generate? Media that “producers” or companies produce. Do we call it simple media or movies or articles? If so, do we really need separate terms for media based on who produced that media? Just a thought – I’m not sure, personally.

    Citizen media might be the best. Tell me what you think.

  • Marketing
    For most, marketing is brands and brochures, maybe with some databases and client profiling thrown in. What’s marketing in pinko terms?

    All kinds of organic terms come to my mind …. seeding, planting, watering, tending, weeding, nurturing. That’s because in pinko terms for marketing to be effective it has to be owned by the community, by the clients, by the people who care about it.

    But what also comes to mind is Seth Godin‘s statement that while markets are conversations, marketing is a story. In that sense, marketing is storytelling. Humans are natural story tellers and story listeners, after all, and compelling stories get told more often than boring or irrelevant ones. So maybe good marketing is the art of telling good stories.

That’s all I have time to go into detail on today. But here are other terms that require thought:

  • producer
  • public relations
  • advertising
  • content
  • community
  • publishers
  • participant
  • customers/clients
  • viral/infectious
  • seeding
  • social networking

In the next few days I’ll come back to this list and try to expand on some of these terms. But I’d hugely appreciate input and advice from others in the comments and on your own blogs. And what terms have I missed?

Language matters
If you don’t believe that language matters, look at who calls Hizbullah “terrorists” and who calls Hizbullah “freedom fighters.” Words embody belief systems. Believe systems get translated into words.

Let’s get ours right.

[tags] marketing, marcom, PR, user, user generated, CGM, consumer generated media, pinko marketing, advertising, consumer, tara hunt, seth godin, john koetsier [/tags]

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I can’t really let that “British Humour” remark slide. “British Passion” could have gone by, but seriously? Are you saying we’re without a sense of humour? And you’re Canadian?

  • No, no, I love Pink Panther (the original) and Mr Bean and Black Adder and Monty Python and the dry understated ironic British humor that even comes through when watching a “football” game on the “tellie.”

    It’s just a cheap shot joke that counterbalances the “American culture” cheap shot. Now if you’ve got one for Canada, let me know and I’ll put it in!

  • How about ‘Canadian niceness’? 😉

    I hate the terms consumer and user, too. I like to use community, community member and customer. It denotes the proper, you are serving them, not the other way around thing.

  • Canadian niceness often IS a contradiction in terms … to the consternation of those who think that all Canadians are nice.

    (They should drive in our traffic!)