Open marketing: What does it really mean? |

Open marketing: What does it really mean?

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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 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 and 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.

About the author

Rebecca Fernandez - Rebecca Fernandez is a Principal Program Manager at Red Hat, leading projects to help the company scale its open culture. She's an Open Organization Ambassador, contributed to The Open Organization book, and maintains the Open Decision Framework. She is interested in the intersection of open source principles and practices, and how they can transform organizations for the better.