February 13, 2011

Penney / Search Fluff-Up: Is Marketing Bankrupt?

By now, you're read all about JCP and their little organic search fluff-up, as reported by the New York Times

In essence, JCP's search vendor participated in an epic series of black hat practices.  The NY Times article clearly states that JCP is distancing itself from the practices of the search vendor, SearchDex, firing the vendor last week, placing accountability squarely upon the vendor.

Allow me to draw a parallel.  Last night, I entered tasty treats in a dessert competition.  Folks paid $5 to sample treats, then were given the opportunity to vote for the treats they liked best.  The entry with the most votes would be declared the winner.

There were three ways to win the contest.  
  • One way was to have the best merchandise, to create something so delicious that voters had to vote for your product.
  • A second way was to present the merchandise in such a way that people were compelled to try the product ... fancy wrappers, spectacular containers, colorful toppings, that kind of thing.
  • A third way was to invite your friends and family at a cost of $5 per person, then ask friends and family to vote for the treats you made.
Guess which method won the contest?

The winner invited friends, friends voted as expected, and the entire team celebrated their victory while fifty other participants quietly left the building.

As business leaders, we're constantly being sold a seductive message.
  • Winning is easy.
  • You can win, now.
  • Nobody remembers losers.
  • Follow a simple set of best practices that anybody could employ.
  • Push the boundaries of "what is right".
  • Ask for forgiveness if you're caught.
  • Find ways to blame others when you are caught.
What's sad is that Penney didn't catch this, nor did Google.  An outsider caught the problem.
This story really isn't about JCP.  It's about us.  What the heck are we doing? 

Is Marketing Bankrupt?