Open marketing: What does it really mean? | Opensource.com

Open marketing: What does it really mean?

Posted 17 May 2010 by 

Rebecca Fernandez (Red Hat)
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The Open Source Way book has a section on Open Marketing, and I'll be honest: I have my doubts.

I will grant that the American Marketing Association defines marketing as "the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large."

But in the real world? It seems to me that marketing is often better defined, "the art of convincing others they have a need for something... for which they have no need."

Here's how the section reads today:

1.4.9. Open marketing

This is marketing done entirely in the open, no secret discussions on brand tactics behind the Wizard's curtain. You talk about your strengths, weaknesses, brand position, and so forth as an ongoing open discussion.

Central to this are social media tools. Some are used for discussions, some are for information dispersal, but any vector is a potential for learning and spreading the word.

  • Blogging planet or otherwise aggregated feed of all contributors
  • Radically transparent
  • Publicly displayed and discussed content and code committing
  • Always being watched
    • All mailing list traffic
    • All IRC logs
    • All voice sessions logged and available
    • 100% totally accountable discussions
    • Radically transparent

1.4.9.1. Fundamental rule - do not bash competitors

In fact, ignore them when talking about your project. Why waste the attention you've got on your project to point attention at something else?

I can't help but think of one example of open marketing gone sour: Google's recent "open" manifesto. Senior VP of Product Management Jonathan Rosenberg wrote:

Last week I sent an email to Googlers about the meaning of "open" as it relates to the Internet, Google, and our users. In the spirit of openness, I thought it would be appropriate to share these thoughts with those outside of Google as well...

The memo goes on to encourage Google employees to open up their projects whenever possible, while defending Google's "closed" search system as beneficial for users.

This blog entry unleashed a series of biting news articles and blog comments in response. From The Register:

Google has sent itself a memo  as part of an ongoing effort to perpetuate the self-delusion that it's the world's most open  company.

And via Boing Boing:

How odd that of all the products Google would be forced to keep proprietary by its commitment to an open internet, it just happens to be the ones that make it all of its money.

An optimistic person would suggest that this sort of feedback is a valuable look in the mirror. A pessimist might well wonder if any company's open marketing would be met with equal vitrol.

Meanwhile, what's the solution to the problem I hinted at earlier: often what needs marketing are things no one really needs or (initially) wants? After all, most "As Seen On TV" products would not sell nearly as well if a quick Internet search turned up mailing lists where the inventor acknowledges his solar bacon cooker will most likely be used a handful of times before being bagged up and donated to a thrift shop. And yet, QVC and The Home Shopping Network strike me as success stories of modern capitalism.

Perhaps I'm looking at this from a completely wrong angle. How do you see open marketing working to a company's benefit?

As always, because both opensource.com and theopensourceway.org use the CC BY SA licensing, we can move content between them seamlessly. Contributing to the Open Marketing section is as easy as leaving a good comment.

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8 Comments

Colonel Panik

"The market is conversation."
IIRC that is how they said it in "The Cluetrain
Manifesto".

If the conversation about your product or
brand is positive there should be some
increase in sales? If the conversation
is negative because of misrepresentation
of the product/service your company
will and should suffer.

Some how I always see this as:
Open = Truth
Maybe I am dreaming?

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VM Brasseur

Had you told me a few years ago that I'd soon defend the field of marketing I would have said you were eight different shades of insane. Yet, here I am.

Let me start by saying that I am not a marketer, per se. My role is Director of Product Development (software engineering) at an email service provider. My company works with many marketers and my time here has opened my eyes to what marketing is and can be.

I acknowledge that the popular view of marketing equates it to advertising. It's true that advertising is a large and (to some) important part of the field but it's far from all that marketing comprises. As I'm neither a marketer myself nor a guru of same I'll limit my comments to pointing out a couple other aspects of the field and leave the details to someone more directly qualified than I.

The most important thing (IMO) that marketing does is study the MARKET. You want to make a widget? OK, who wants one? Let's check the market and see. If there's a market then what does it want in a widget? Do your competitors make a widget? How well is that received? Etc. Good marketing can make or break a company. If you're making widgets when the market really wants sprockets then your marketing team has failed you and the company needs to change direction or die.

Marketing also works to establish the brand and identity of a company/product. What do you think when someone says "Google" to you (in a company context)? You may start with "Don't be evil" and then apply your own personal experiences and opinions from there. "Don't be evil" is part of their brand, part of their mission and part of their philosophy. Whether reality matches the brand is a crucial part of the success of a company. Trust is lost when a brand is inaccurate and with that trust go also the customers.

These are only two of the many other facets of the field of marketing and both of them can make or break a company at a very fundamental level. Advertising only comes into play after these two processes have been brought to bear and is, granted, the most obvious (and often irritating) facet of the field of marketing.

The Open Source Way section you quoted above is directly applicable to these very important aspects of marketing and, I believe, very well written to reflect that. Used correctly, the guidelines listed there can be incredibly effective both in defining a market and in establishing a strong brand. Though I'd yet to find the time to read the Open Source Way I believe it may now have jumped near the top of the stack so I can see what other valuable nuggets it includes for the successful operation of a robust business.

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quaid
Open Minded

I made a pointer to this article and started gathering writing actions about this section of 'The Open Source Way':

https://www.theopensourceway.org/wiki/Talk:Introduction

Keep the ideas coming, I'll put them there; or get an account and start adding them yourself.

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quaid
Open Minded

In his comment, Cololel Panik essentially hits the mark on what The Open Source Way means by open marketing. It's a connection back to The Cluetrain Manifesto.

First, for reference, I looked up the two marketing definitions in the original post, the one from the American Marketing Association (AMA) I found, but I didn't find the second definition, "the art of convincing others they have a need for something... for which they have no need." Is that a definition created by the author? It's valid in that is likely what many people think of marketing, and here's how it's not related to what open marketing is:

In the early days of the Fedora Marketing project, one of the things we discussed was the connotation of the term "marketing", how it applied to what we were doing for the Fedora Project, and especially how it affects a technical audience. People don't want to be marketed to, and there is a tenuous relationship (at best) between geek audiences and marketing/sales groups.

However, the strict definition from the AMA is actually useful to us. If we substitute in "contributors and users" for "customers, clients, partners", leaving "society" in place, we have a good working definition for what open source projects do for marketing.

"The activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for contributors, users, and society at large."

The major difference, and the one that contrasts the Google open manifesto, is that when you actually practice radical transparency from the beginning (which is a step in The Open Source Way that comes before open marketing), then you create a situation of trust before you begin marketing activities.

If I join a church group, and they have festivals, events, and a monthly newsletter talking about them, the festivals and events are a set of "offerings" that are marketed through the newsletter, word of mouth, etc. In that case, the market is the conversation, I am there by choice, and I'm not feeling a discomfort at the marketing activities.

It is much harder for a business to be radically transparent. There are legal and social mores to consider; for example, many people in the US are uncomfortable talking about their salary and compensation. Vendors who sell goods to a company don't want their invoice transaction history put up on a wiki for all to see. It might all be visible to the IRS in the end, but there is still a freedom of information request between the entire world and that information. Those are the social mores that come in to effect.

It is much harder to slap an open label on activities after the fact, especially when they aren't open at all. That seems more like the practice of fauxpen source. When we have bad actors who are taking the definitions away from us, we have to decide to use new words or take back the definition. Since there are so many existing marketing professionals who can learn from The Open Source Way, it makes sense to take back "open marketing" rather than to cede that ground to the fakers.

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Rebecca
Open Source Champion

Just stumbled across this and thought it was interesting. I think it highlights Karsten's point about defining exactly what open marketing is (and by extension, isn't).

Open source marketing: Camel cigarette brand marketing in the “Web 2.0” world
http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/18/3/212.full

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quaid
Open Minded

That is a good example because the researchers misunderstand what open source is about, fundamentally. In doing so, they equate it really with crowdsourcing - viral video remixes and such that are essentially illegal copyright infringement that a business allows people to get away with doing because they have no reason to say no.

The definition of open source in that study says that, "those developing software sought to make program designs transparent and to utilise the collective intelligence of other internet users to develop and refine the software." It entirely skips the most important part, where a license provides essential freedoms to the open sourced work. The kind of fauxpen source Web 2.0 marketing in that study does not have this essential freedom at it's core. It can never be open marketing, because the very materials of the marketing are owned and controlled by the one entity least able to be objective about how the materials are used.

This in fact is one of the reasons why people who prefer the term "free software" have so many problems with how the term "open source" is used. Because open source puts a thin veil in front of the licensing and essential freedoms, it is easy for people to misunderstand and think the model is about crowdsourcing.

Fellow opensource.com writer Chris Grams said it very well in his article, "Why the open source way trumps the crowdsourcing way". But even Chris missed the opportunity to really highlight how the essential freedoms are what makes the open source way actually work. If I'm not free to read, remix, create, and distribute from your marketing materials, then it is not open marketing. It is a crowdsourcing trick, at best, and a bit of ol' Tom Sawyer at worst.

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sachindabir
Open Minded

I am focussing on the term "creating and communicating" in the AMA definition. I am not a marketer per se, but I am a keen observer and learner for 18 years.

Communicating your offerings in a way that would convince the recipient to buy it, has been the focus of marketing communication. It is expected to be honest and true.
However the way these messages are communicated has lost its credibility (in many cases), it has lost people's trust in marketing messages.

I think, it is time now that companies embrace the the openness and simplicity in its messaging and create that trust with the recipient. In the clutter of advertisement and internet messaging what is going to stand is honest and straight forward communication.

I think if "Open Marketing" can achieve this one thing, it would benefit all - the sellers and the buyers.

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eloiza

I agree that the new approach nowadays should be open. A lot of companies are now gearing towards publishing their products/services and support via social media streams or methods.

I think with open marketing will serve all people, individual or businesses better.

"bringing business together"
OpenAxcss Solutions

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Rebecca Fernandez works at Red Hat in employment branding. Before that, she was a freelance business writer for 5 years, and before that, a copy writer at Red Hat. (They just couldn't be rid of her.) Rebecca is interested in open source software, education, and the intersection of the open source way with business management models.

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