Has the Internet Changed the Basic Nature of Marketing?

by John Eberhard

The idea occasionally pops up that the Internet has changed the basic nature of how we do marketing. The idea is that through Internet 2.0, with social media and blogging and all that, that marketing has changed from a top-down conversation to a back and forth conversation. It empowers the consumer to be able to talk back to the company and so on. In other words, it’s no longer one person speaking to thousands, it’s now a one-on-one conversation.

There are various outgrowths of this idea.

1. One outgrowth is the idea that one has to have permission before he communicates

2. Another outgrowth is the concept of duplicate content being bad on the Internet.

3. Another outgrowth of this idea is the concept that the traditional method of marketing, where ads are inserted amongst content the consumer wants, like in a magazine or newspaper or on TV, now called "interruption marketing" by some, is now outdated and doesn’t work anymore. Instead, we have search engines and people come there specifically looking for something.

Well I guess it is partly my job here on planet Earth to be an iconoclast (One who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions – American Heritage Dictionary Online).

First of all I will say that I have been involved full time in marketing, for a wide variety of industries, for 24 years, since 1989. That was well before there was an Internet, so I think I am well qualified to answer the question in the headline above.

The basic nature of marketing is that there has to be communications going out from one source to thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or more, people. That’s the initial marketing push, and that has to be where you spend the majority of your attention and budget.

The only thing that the Internet has changed is that through social media and blogging it is now easier for the consumer to talk back, give his opinions, communicate about problems and so on. And the wise company will pay attention to what consumers are saying.

But the idea that the Internet has changed the basic nature of marketing is complete and utter nonsense. Any company that buys this idea and decides to stop sending out communications to wide audiences in order to interest those audiences in their products or services, will drown. If you think you can market your products or services just one on one, you will starve. That’s the sales model, and sales and marketing are very different animals.

You still need to send out marketing messages to the multitudes, in order to make them aware of your offerings, and to generate responses. And you need to handle those responses with sales people, and pay attention to the consumer feedback that the Internet has facilitated and made easier.

Now let’s address some of the ideas that have grown out of the concept that the Internet has changed everything.

1. Permission marketing: This idea largely came from a guy named Seth Godin, and it grew out of the large amount of spam email that was occurring in the early to mid 2000s. But if you examine the idea, it falls apart. How can you get someone’s permission to send them a communication if they do not initially see a communication from you? I mean, I get the whole thing that people don’t want to be inundated with unwanted email, and perhaps Godin’s concept applies mainly to email. But we do have the CAN-SPAM Act, a federal law that requires companies to remove someone who requests off a list.

So if companies follow that law, why do we need every email company on the planet requiring that all email sent be opt-in? Why do we need vigilante companies compiling lists of "spammers" that ISPs subscribe to, in order to block those people? Permission marketing in terms of email is now virtually enforced.

2. Duplicate Content is Bad: According to SEOMoz, " Duplicate content is content that appears on the Internet in more than one place (URL). This is a problem because when there are more than one piece of identical content on the Internet, it is difficult for search engines to decide which version is more relevant to a given search query. To provide the best search experience, search engines will rarely show multiple, duplicate pieces of content and thus, are forced to choose which version is most likely to be the original (or best)."

So we see that this is really a search engine problem. But this idea that duplicate content is bad has been so thoroughly disseminated that you probably have the idea that there is something inherently wrong (bad, evil) with having two or more web pages with the same content.

As an example of this, sites like Squidoo.com and HubPages.com will no longer even accept an article that exists elsewhere on the web. They will only accept totally unique content.

According to this idea, if you have an article that you want to syndicate in multiple places across the Internet, you can’t. You have to write a separate and unique version of that article for every place on the Internet that you want it to appear.

I have been doing link building for clients using articles and press releases for over 7 years, putting the articles on dozens of sites, and putting the releases on dozens of sites, and have carefully tracked the results, and have seen absolutely NO negative impact for the clients. Using this program I have been able to build 500-1,000 links per month for clients, and I am not aware of another program that can create that kind of volume of links.

Yet most other SEO consultants are in such a state of propitiation to Google that just the fact that Google says it is bad is enough for them to accept it verbatim.

My thought is that when you write an article, you want it to go out widely so that thousands, tens of thousands, or hundred of thousands of people see it. That’s marketing. And I will continue to resist people who tell me I can’t do it.

3. Search Engines, No More "Interruption Marketing": Search engines are a new innovation and have added a new dimension to marketing, a line for marketers to place themselves in front of people who are actively searching for something.

That’s great. But it still doesn’t change the fact that initial marketing and branding of a product needs to be done widely to the masses. And I will say again that if you drop your communications going from one source out to thousands, in favor of only being in front of people who search for something, you will starve. And I think that people who advocate that no one do any more "interruption marketing" are hopelessly naive and short sighted and will steer people wrong.

For one thing, how did that person who went on the search engine first learn about the product or service to know enough to search for it? Huh? Gotcha thinking, didn’t I?


I know I am taking a position here that is out of agreement with a large group of people, and may even offend some or piss people off.

But I feel strongly that these ideas I have mentioned above are wrong and are stopping people from marketing today. And I think it is my job to say so.

One Response to “Has the Internet Changed the Basic Nature of Marketing?”

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  1. Alan Eames says:

    You keep teaching me things; didn’t know that Squidoo & Hubpages no longer accepted something that had already been posted elsewhere.

    I agree with you, the people promoting this idea that you shouldn’t market to thousands, or should only market with permission, don’t understand the basic concept of marketing.

    Why do they think companies pay millions of dollars to put a 30 second ad on the Super Bowl? Are they asking permission? I don’t think so.

    Thanks for another great article!


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