You Really Can Suck & Blow at the Same Time

In 1781 Dr. Samuel Johnson, man of letters and compiler of the English dictionary wrote a poster announcing the auction of Thrale’s Brewery. "We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats,” Johnson opined, “but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”

This aspirational phrasing did the trick and the brewery fetched £135,000 roughly equivalent to £13M today.

With rich beyond the dreams of avarice Johnson arguably invented the benefit and became an early practitioner in the trade of advertising, an industry that centuries later would think different to him about English grammar.

Some 120 years later, in 1903 King Gillette was faced with a conundrum.

His safety razor was simply too expensive for the marketplace, purchasing one would cost a working man around half his weekly wage.

Until Gillette devised an ingenious scheme to sell each razor at a loss and make his money on the blades.

So Gillette, who did not invent the safety razor, did invent the loss leader, making a considerable contribution to the creation of Marketing, (while pissing off generations of men with the inflated price of razor blades).

And for the next hundred years or so, the separate, but interrelated disciplines of Advertising and Marketing were fairly well-defined.

Advertising was a vehicle for the delivery of a message through paid media; essentially advertising pushed the message towards you.

Even when it elicited an unambigous  response, as in the case of direct mail, it was exactly that  -- a response to a media stimulus.

Marketing, on the other hand, sold you the razor and essentially pulled you towards the blade, it was more about the big picture, more about creating demand through adjusting factors like pricing and packaging, than tailoring a message.

At the risk of over simplifying things, Advertising was a push mechanism while Marketing was a pull mechanism.

(I’m referring to the sharp end of Marketing here –the sales end, and not the broader context of the Marketing Mix.)

And that was basically the status quo until the advent of web 2.0

When social media in particular, blurred the distinction between pushing and pulling, because the internet has the unsettling ability to push and pull simultaneously.

You tweet, or upload a clip to YouTube, initially your tweet or video is simply a message you’re pushing, but if it gains any traction at all, it rapidly starts exerting a pull of its own.

And if it goes viral, the pull becomes cyclonic without diminishing and in fact, accelerating the push.

This almost contradicts the old wives' tale, about the impossibility of sucking and blowing at the same time. Which goes some way to explaining why as Google's  Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt memorably said, “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand.”

Because we’re hard wired to sink or swim, not sink and swim.

And the Internet is riddled with contradictions: personal and public, 0ne-to-one and one-to-many, targeted and random.

It’s hard for us to understand anything that performs so many opposite actions simultaneously - it’s just not natural to suck and blow at the same time.

Or it wasn’t until recently.

But there's a lot of fusion going on.

Are you ready for Marketising?