On the face of it, it seemed like a good idea – work with an existing and well-known meme to promote the Age of Conversation 2: why don't they get it? in the lead-up to the new year. It would give the contributing authors some content to blog about, hopefully create some conversation, and use some of the concepts fundamental to the book to explain some of the topics covered IN the book .... it would be a case of "eating our own cake" in the hope of creating what contributing author David Meerman Scott calls "a worldwide rave."
After considering a number of options, I settled on a clip from the movie entitled The Downfall - about the last days in Hitler's bunker at the end of World War II. Since the middle of 2008, there have been several hundred remixes of this clip including one parodying the Democrat nomination of Hillary Clinton (receiving hundreds of thousands of views) as well as a version about the Microsoft Xbox Live service.
It seemed to fit the bill .... it would be readily identifiable, it would already be well-known not only to our authors but also to the marketing directors who we hoped would purchase copies of the book. More importantly, it was easily adaptable .... because the dialog is in German, subtitles can be used to tell an alternative story, requiring minimal intervention and re-work.
After mapping out the storyline, I set to work tightening the messages to match the tempo of the acting. After a couple of attempts it was ready to go. Or so I thought.
I checked the video one last time and sent a note to my partner in crime, Drew McLellan, letting him know that the video was ready and available. Drew then sent an email to 237 the contributing authors asking them to use the clip to help publicize the book and build some additional sales momentum – and within minutes we began receiving feedback.
While some found the clip humorous, others were concerned about the subject matter. Some felt it was "on the money" while, again, others felt uneasy. What we had done was drive a wedge right through the center of our safest audience .... the authors who had committed their ideas, energy and time to the project. We needed to take this feedback onboard, quickly, and respond.
This year's edition of The Age of Conversation is broken into eight separate sections, with authors contributing 400 words or one page that section. There are manifestos, chapters on "life in the conversation lane", discussions on creativity, privacy and secrets, business models and essays on how ideas become reality. But the section entitled My Marketing Tragedy began to assume a new significance. I would have done well to review this section .... especially Douglas Karr's chapter entitled "You Are Not Your Audience".
Clearly accommodating the views and perspectives of over 200 authors from 15 countries is going to present a challenge. However, it soon became apparent that we had both succeeded and failed. Sure, we had created discussion and dialog – but it was not the conversation that we had wanted. We had used humor where many could find nothing but horror. We had shared a story that few wanted to propagate. We had created concern and anxiety where our intention was to do the opposite.
In the Age of Conversation, the path to success is littered with failures both large and small. The challenge for us all is to put relationships ahead of messages, or people ahead of process. This, of course, means changing the nature of how many marketers "do" marketing .... and this perhaps, is the underlying message of many chapters in this outstanding collaborative book. But it is one thing to understand, and quite another to unlearn what has taken an entire career to perfect. As Johnathan Trenn suggests, "our first challenge is to understand others".
And now, if you will excuse me, I have some re-reading to do before creating our next promotional video.