From: Reno, NV
Thursday night, 9:26pm
Subject: Going off on The Man, Part II
One of the talents I’m most proud of is my knack for naming stuff.
I’m good at it because I love all forms of language, and I’m not afraid of mixing up forbidden slang with fifty-cent words to arrive at something fresh and compelling.
I could, for example, have called my first course “A Really Good Tutorial on Creating Ads” and written it in proper English … and it would have promptly (and justifiably) sank to the bottom of the barrel of courses on advertising.
Fortunately, I eschewed mediocrity and — instead — went for the jugular.
And the slang-ridden, take-no-prisoners course I did write — “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” — hit a nerve among entrepreneurs and small biz owners world-wide.
The lesson: Words matter.
Never confuse “smart sounding speech” with real communication. “A loquacious Antartic fowl entered a libations establishment…” doesn’t pack the same punch as “A penguin walks into a bar…” when you’re telling a joke.
And the guy who wins the debate will always be the one who connects with the audience in the most fundamental, feisty way. Facts won’t win, carefully constructed diatribes won’t win, and even being right won’t win.
The winner will always be the dude who cracks the crowd up, and delights their ear with unexpected language.
Thus, I have never offered a plain old seminar before. Instead, I host “Copywriting Sweatshops” and “License To Steal Workshops” (where I teach you how to literally rip-off my best ads for your own nefarious use).
There is real pleasure in a well-turned phrase. All the top writers and marketers I know are constantly on the look-out for cool, off-beat, riveting word play we can use in our copy.
But it’s also important to give credit where it’s due. People rip me off all the time, and it rankles me most when they claim they made up original phrases I’ve penned.
Karma usually takes care of the little thieving bastards (I love how that works)… but it is also important for me not to take credit for phrases that aren’t originally mine.
There are plenty of words to go around… excellent words, too, combined in unique and startling ways… so there’s no need to ever get greedy.
I tell you all this because, for a few hours last week, I thought I’d hit the motherlode of invented phrases while talking with my pal Rich Schefren. I mis-heard him at one point, and thought he’d said “fraudcasting” when he actually said “broadcasting”. (It was late, he’d been up for days putting the finish on his latest manifesto, and he was starting to slur.)
What a great word! It is rare when you come up with a slight change in the original phrase like that, to arrive at something so obviously and clearly askew… and so powerfully charged with shock value.
Alas, it’s not mine to claim.
A quick Google search brought up multiple references for “fraudcasting” (and yeah, some dude has the URL, though he doesn’t seem to quite know what to do with it).
Still, though… it seems not to have slithered into common useage yet.
And yet, it should.
Because fraudcasting is out there. And it’s nasty.
I’m referring to the increasing number of Big Damn Corporations engaging in actual fraudulent activity online.
Let’s be clear here: My trusty beat-to-shit Webster’s dictionary defines “fraud” as “the intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or surrender a legal right”.
Bar room translation: The Man wants to cheat you out of money by gaining your trust… and then shitting on it.
Sorry for the harsh wording there… but that’s what’s going on.
And it’s poisoning the Web for all of the decent entrepreneurs and small biz owners out there.
Here’s the story: It’s no secret that The Man loathes the freedom and easy democratic access of the Web. He prefers a non-level playing field, like television, where he wins just because he has more money than you.
And boy, is The Man ever pissed off that guys like you and me can just throw up a blog and get heavy readership… and more attention than he can with all his expensive commericials and sponsorships. (Well, the opportunity to get more attention is there, if you’re smart, anyway. And that’s enough to get The Man all itchy and upset.)
Every so often, some corportate honcho will get a brainstorm like: “Hey! Let’s just make up our OWN damn blog… and cash in on this stupid Web thing-a-mah-hootie by duping people into believing we’re just like them, only we’ll really SELL them shit! Get me the Creative Department…”
The evidence (courtesy of Rich Schefren, who compiled these examples while doing research for his new report on “the attention economy”): Sony did a fake blog, using repulsive phony rappers to stir up cravings for their new versioin of Playstation.
Wal-Mart heavily pushed a completely fictional blog by completely fictional RV folks touting the beneficent wonders of Wal-Marts everywhere. (“Please let these marvelous big box stores into your community! Only good things will happen, we swear!”)
McDonalds even floated a bullshit blog, until they got busted.
And that’s the punch line, really. They ALL got busted… because The Man doesn’t even begin to understand the new order of things online.
Real bloggers have real power. And they’re not amused by cynical attempts to take advantage of this wonderous new tool we all share on the Web.
Right now, regular old bloggers are doing the fact-checking and investigative journalism that the professional journalists are ignoring. And this is changing the game on multiple levels.
Word spreads fast. YouTube has become a judge/trial/jury wasteland for phonies — just ask AOL (who refused to let a dude cancel his account), Jet Blue (videoed lying to passengers during interminable waits on the tarmac), Dell and other corporations stung by the new online Robin Hoods out there shuttling their grievances past all the usual (and “Man-controlled”) paths for complaining, straight to the huddled masses yearning to be set free of bullshit.
Fraudcasting. It’s like broadcasting, except you’re lying like a rug.
And, for now, chances are good you’ll get busted if you try it.
But do NOT be lulled into thinking this is the way it will always be. This “truth will out” environment is absolutely unique in human history. Throughout the long trudge toward the freedom we now enjoy, MOST of your ancestors who have spoken out against The Man were promptly crushed like bugs.
And in MOST of the world today, that’s still the case.
Get straight on this.
The reason Google — for example — has permanently soiled its reputation is because they folded up their principles of privacy and freedom when dealing with China… and people are in jail because of it. They went for the easy cash, and people got hurt.
You cannot take any freedom for granted. When you do, The Man will pounce and strip it away from you.
And if you think it can’t happen here, you’re delusional.
There is NO guarantee the Web will continue to be as unregulated and free as it is today. Remember — it doesn’t run on magic, but on very real networks that can easily be hijacked by the Powers That Be, and subjugated completely.
Many of the fraudcasting episodes of corporations were exposed not by mainstream media, but by regular dudes who cared deeply about truth.
But we’re relying on the utter cluelessness of The Man in most of these cases. Politicians routinely get caught with email they thought they’d “deleted” (cuz they can’t get their brains around the idea of “deletion” not being permanent) that ruin thier careers. Corporate beasts get busted because they treat blogging like some stupid, irrelevant geekoid hobby.
They don’t get it. Yet.
But they soon will.
(Side note: With just a touch of self-abusing irony, Big Biz could get the results they seek — a little good PR, some thumbs-up word-of-mouth buzz, even sales. I don’t know if Jack In The Box has a blog, but if he does, I’ll bet it’s funny, ironic and readable. And isn’t trying to fool or defraud anyone.)
Anyway, that’s the larger picture.
For entrepreneurs and small biz owners, it’s important to understand how blogs can fit into a real marketing model.
First rule: Don’t bullshit your readers.
The Web is crawling with scams and lies and nonsense (both small-time and corporate)… and that’s an opening for smart marketers.
BE that guy who tells the truth, and EARNS the trust of your readers, every time you post.
The Web is entertaining… it’s informative… and it’s a snakepit of propoganda and fraud.
Getting the attention of people interested in what you offer is the hardest part of your gig. Holding onto that attention is your main job.
It’s okay to sell stuff online. That’s how the economy works.
But pulling a “Blair Witch” kind of trick is risky, because people are getting paranoid and touchy about the increasing amount of fraudcasting out there. It’s neither unique nor amusing anymore.
When the noise of the market reaches ear-splitting levels, you’ll gain more listeners if you speak softly and tell the truth, as simply and eloquently as possible.