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Aladdin, Ulysses and Polyphemus

June 1998

disponibile anche in Italiano

  Giancarlo Livraghi
For other comments on internet marketing
see the Netmarketing online newsletter

  It could be interesting, I think, to begin to classify the different schools of thought on online marketing. Here’s a suggestion; with a touch of irony – but, I believe, quite realistic.

I am using ancient metaphors because I am convinced that new trends, including those concerning the net, have old roots (there are some notes on "genetic" continuity when using new technologies in issue 18 of the Netmarketing newsletter).

Ulysses in this case is not the hero of the Odyssey (he was doing his best to go home) but the character in Dante’s Inferno and the symbol in many modern writings: the spirit of exploration and discovery, the desire to broaden one’s horizon and learn new things. This, I believe, is the winning attitude in the net, for companies as well as people.

The Aladdins are the loudest. "Stroke your mouse, they say, and a genie will appear, that will make you instantly rich and happy." Of course it isn’t true, but we still hear that promise repeated very often.

The Poliphemi are near-sighted giants, that live in huge caves full of gold. They move on like steamrollers and don’t care on whom or what they are treading. The Aladdins feed on large crumbs that fall from their gargantuan tables.

We could play a game. When we read a book or an article, or hear a speech in a convention, we could ask ourselves if we are hearing the voice of an Ulysses, and Aladdin or a Cyclops.

Of course, in my view, Ulysses should be the winner. And I think he has very big opportunities, without even bothering to blind Polyphemus – that can’t see very well and is looking the other way. He needs only to stay away from the Sirens, let the Cyclopes cudgel each other, and patiently tend the garden of human relations, weaving the net of knowledge and trust.

And while we’re playing with metaphors... here are a few more.


Dinosaurs, squirrels and ticks

Of course the tale of dinosaurs and primates is not new... Michael Crichton used in 1994 when he wrote Mediasaurus to explain the decadence of broadcast media. And so did many others. It’s déjà vu, but it works; please let me use it once again, from the angle of online marketing.

The dinosaurs aren’t only the giants of software and information, fighting each other for power and control, with mergers, acquisitions and as much of a monopoly as they can get. They are also the companies and organizations, large and small, that try to bend the net to fit the strategy of traditional marketing and one-way communication. If we look carefully, the whole menagerie is there: the tyrannosaurus and the brontosaurus, the archaeopteryx and the velociraptor.

There are lots of ticks. They find countless ways of thriving as parasites of the dinosaurs. From their point of view, it’s not bad business: before the dinosaur collapses they could have enough money in the bank to live happily ever after – or so they hope. Every now and then a dinosaur scratches off a few ticks, but they often find another host; and if one dies there are hundreds ready to take its place.

Squirrels, so far, don’t seem to be the majority; if they are, they’re staying away from the limelight. But they are there, and growing; running on the branches of the worldwide forest that they know much better than the dinosaurs and their ticks. It’s impossible to predict the future, in biology as in human history; but the survival potential of the squirrels seems quite high.

Of course I am biased: I like the Ulysses and the Squirrels. But I think it’s a good idea to look out for people with those talents. They are very likely to be the winners. And working with them is fun.

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