Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Conquering Madison Ave. 2.0: Zulu Marketing (P. 2)

Madison Ave 2.0: Conquering Madison Ave. (Part 2)


There is another, more historically - and for you war buffs, more militarily - explicable way to understand the changes afoot: we’ll call this The New Way for Media Companies to take Over the World. I could also have called this Nazi Marketing but Shaka was more charming and probably more creatively responsible for building his empire than his evil European counterpart.


In each case these leaders devastated their enemies by leapfrogging the gradual changes already taking place. They did this by understanding how new developments are initially used to solve old problems (often referred to as paving the cowpath) and then looking at the picture in a whole new way. They put the tools to do the work in ways more true to the new tools than ones they replace and the results can be devastating – until the rest catch up (think Google and link-based rankings, think the Civil War and new rifles whose reach put entire regiments in the line of fire).

Hitler saw tanks as more than protection for soldiers stuck in trenches (which is why they were developed) but rather as a way to quickly strike at the heart of the enemy with a motorized assault. When coordinated with the other assets of the wehrmacht - airplanes, mobile artillery and only then, followed by the infantry – it was unstoppable and got around silly little things like the maginot line the French spent years developing.

The doctrine we know of as blitzkreig was actually developed by Heinz Guderian and probably a few others including some Brits. But Heinz wrote the book, “Achtung...Panzer!” Hitler read it, took power, used it and, for a moment, ruled the world.


Shaka Zulu, had less science to work with but he saw that tribal warfare had become a ritual of sorts because, like TV advertising, their throwing spears were inaccurate. So the neighboring tribes had settled into a kind of Sunday sports warfare. The two sides would gather at opposite hills, families would come out with picnics and the young warriors would line up behind their small, round shields and hurl spears at each other. Eventually, someone would get hurt, the elders would meet and decide who won. The loser would give up some cattle and a bride or two and they would all go home for dinner.

Shaka was young, hungry and desperate to recover his family’s lost status as royal outcasts. He realized that if you really want to win you have to get really close to your target. So forget throwing spears. You need a new kind of up-close stabbing spear. He developed the iklwa, (often referred to as the assegai since who can pronounce it.)

By early 19th Century Africa standards, that put him on a par with the tank developers - or the pay-per-click guys. The real change came when he realized that by changing his tactics, strategies and rules of war, he could conquer just about everything around him

So when he realized people weren’t going to let him get that close, he figured he needed to run fast enough to surprise them. So goodbye huarache sandles and, in the absence of Nikes, he developed the original running sole, the human foot hardened by dancing on thorns. (Pretty much how I feel about watching Dancing With the Stars.) Then he realized his blitzkrieg needed a tank of its own to stave off the spears which began to get accurate just as he got closer. So he developed a man-sized shield with a hardier coat of cowhide.

Now comes the hook shot. The enemy could still hide behind their shields, just like today’s advertising gatekeepers. So Shaka added a little do-hickey to his shield that, with training, would enable his warriors to hook on to the other guy's shield and just whip it out of the way. Then came the final problem, kind of like how do you get people to click, or should we say open up for business? Since spinning the opponent's shields revealed their sides and not their front torsos where you want to plunge the spear. Shaka came to realize you could reach the heart from other directions like from the underarm instead of the front. (In case you’re wondering, all testing was done on real people).

Today, the Internet guys have learned that beating people over the head is not always necessary. Indirect marketing works: putting paid results next to organic ones pays BIG. Affiliate marketing, cross-linking,a little word of mouth, the right endorsement, behavioral targeting - all of these get you to the heart without necessarily going through the front. And all are still worth more than the declining media placement fees eked out on Madison Ave.

Finally, Shaka, like the generals of the 3rd Reich understood there were no set battle lines and so they embraced the concept of total warfare or in Zulu, mfecane. Expect Microsoft, Google and Yahoo to exercise something similar and refuse to accept the normal boundaries.

We can talk ad infinitum about all the possible responses – and we will – both online at Madison Ave 2.0 on June 14. We suggest you do what Shaka and Hitlers opponents did most effectively – create alliances and develop new strategies. That’s why Swaziland and Lesotho were never invaded by the Zulus. And you wouldn’t want to be a Pondo. The best place to sharpen your spears and make friends is, of course, at a conference, and the Chief conference in this field would be the Madison Ave. 2.0 – Web 2.0 NY Summit on June 14 at Fordham on 62nd @ Columbus.

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