"Marketing" 101

Posted by: Diane Brady on October 10, 2007

I love to get comments on our blog items, especially when they prompt reader debate like our posts on Chinese recalls or Whole Foods’ John Mackey.

But about a dozen of our posts recently received an identical comment, pumping up a management training company based out of Troy, Michigan. “They offer a 4 day fast track program and its incredible. I’m so excited about the value I got out of it, I’m going to every blog and posting this,” wrote a reader, who didn’t sign the comment.

The “commenter” turned out to be marketing coordinator for the company. When I asked him why he was sending this comment to a range of unrelated posts, he said “I was trying out a new method of marketing.” A new form of spamming, I countered. (He disagreed, calling spamming “some kind of virus.”)

I can only hope his employers disagree with his logic. Casting yourself as an excited customer of a company when you’re actually an employee doesn’t sound like a sound marketing strategy to me. It’s the kind of thing day one associates with day traders, trying to ramp up their shares in anonymous posts. It’s what got Mackey into trouble, too.

In an e-mail to me, he argued that “a lot of people, including myself, have gone onto blogs, and seen somebody referring to a company and clicking on the website if they were interested. It has worked for many companies, and I am shocked you aren’t aware of this.”

He goes on to condemn my attitude for asking him to stop (while inviting him to post real feedback whenever he wants). As he put it: “Keep in mind, as a marketing coordinator, it is my job to try new things.”

Using blogs to slip in a plug for your company is not the same thing as mass mailing deceptive comments. Let’s hope this is one marketing strategy that falls out of favor fast.

Reader Comments

Brandon W

October 10, 2007 7:43 AM

What this marketing coordinator fails to realize is that bullhorn advertising is unwelcome anywhere these days, much less in a forum for discussion. If they wish to use blogs as a form of marketing, I suggest the following:
Post intelligent and well-written responses from the CEO/President of the company (even if they're ghost-written) which address the specific topic-at-hand. Then, insert a note such as "Bob Slydell is the CEO of TheBobs consulting firm in Troy, Michigan. Bob can be reached at www.thebobsconsulting.com" at the end.
In this way we get something valuable added to the discussion, we can find out the ability of the consulting firm to provide thoughtful analysis, and if - as a potential client - I am impressed, I will gladly seek out this firm.

HR Wench

October 10, 2007 11:42 AM

Brandon hit the nail on the head. I got nothing!

Jane Chin

October 10, 2007 12:40 PM

This marketer's behavior is what is contaminating the value of the blogosphere as a trustworthy "word-of-mouth" referral/opinion source. I rate this behavior right up there with splogs and comment spam. There is an obvious conflict of interest and lack of disclosure. The company would be better off in the long run to have a transparent marketing approach to cultivate prospective client trust and customer interest.

Diane

October 10, 2007 3:23 PM

I have the name and company of the person who did this. I chose not to use it, because I had assumed his company would not be supportive of these types of tactics. Should I have named him?

Jane Chin

October 10, 2007 4:19 PM

(Diane: you don't need to publish this, I wanted to answer your question from my personal opinion...

I think you could have named him and then see how the company responds. I doubt that his company knows what he's up to, or even knows enough to "approve or disapprove", because most of the time marketers are seen as pros who should know what they're doing. This one marketer, however, obviously lacks insight to consumer perception of what is truly "trustworthy information" and is using a thin excuse to justify why his behavior "made sense".

Let me know what you decide to do!)

Brandon W

October 10, 2007 7:44 PM

Diane,
I feel it was reasonable not to identify the person or their company. It would not be fair to punish the company since they may not have been fully aware of the tactics he was using. I hope the marketing coordinator in question is paying attention to this thread and the comments we have posted. I'm sure I could figure out who it is; and since I live near Troy, Michigan I could even pay a personal visit to their offices to discuss their marketing tactics. But I won't, on either count. I already explained the proper way to use blogs for marketing and public relations.

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