February 21, 2007

An Open Letter To The Marketing Blogosphere

Dear Marketing Blogosphere,

When I began writing my blog last August, I looked to all of you to understand how this form of communication worked. I subscribed to most of the blogs in The Viral Garden Top 25 list. I subscribed to Marketing Profs Daily Fix. I checked out many of the blogs in the Z-List and the Power 150.

I learned a lot! At one point, I maintained nearly 200 blogs in Google Reader.

Yesterday, I unsubscribed from two more blogs, reducing my total to less than 150.

Why have I unsubscribed from so many blogs? Because we can be a very negative group of writers. I am equally guilty of this. But I'm growing tired of reading constant, non-stop, "I am better than you" criticism.

The great jetBlue crisis of 2007 represents a tipping point for me. Hundreds of jetBlue customers were imprisoned on airplanes for up to eleven hours last week. Thousands of families, travelers, and business associates were also inconvenienced.

According to Google Blogsearch, more than 7,500 articles have been written about jetBlue in the past seven days.

The marketing blogosphere has been particularly vocal. Many of us criticized jetBlue for gross incompetence. Many of us offered suggestions on how they can remedy the situation for those impacted. Many of us hammered them for being just another big, impersonal business that doesn't care about customers. Many of us suggested they use their own blog, or YouTube, to communicate with us. And when they did decide to use YouTube to communicate with us, some of us blasted them for not apologizing, for not doing a good enough job of communicating, for not better leveraging their own blog. Could they have done anything that met our expectations?

Why do we act like this?

Are we writing all of this commentary because we genuinely care about the "jetBlue brand"?

Are we writing all of this commentary because we genuinely care about the employees at jetBlue, especially the 95% of employees who had nothing to do with this incident?

Are we writing all of this because we are loyal jetBlue customers, and we don't want this to happen to us in the future?

Are we writing this because the businesses we work for are perfect, and never make mistakes?

Are we writing all of this to demonstrate our subject matter expertise in managing large companies, crisis situations, or use of social media?

Are we writing all of this because we are so fed up with corporate America that we simply can't take it anymore?

We wonder why our craft hasn't been embraced faster by brands. Why would any brand want to jump into this tank of sharks? A brand can work on being authentic, honest, responsive. A brand can work on communicating better. A brand can fess up when it makes mistakes.

A brand doesn't have to participate in a craft that is fueled by such negativity.

I would like to initiate a change in how the marketing blogosphere behaves. Starting March 1, I would like for the marketing blogosphere to write something positive.

Just one day a month, on the first day of the month, write something positive. Call it "One Positive Day". On the first day of each month, let's all identify one brand, one person, one "anything" that has done an outstanding job, and let's feature that story by writing about it.

On each remaining day of the month, do whatever you have to do. But on the first day of each month, let's try something different. Let's highlight something good, let's spread something positive.

Are you with me? Or are you comfortable waiting for the next brand to implode, so you can blast them in front of your audience?

Kevin Hillstrom
The MineThatData Blog


  1. Anonymous2:17 PM

    Great, great idea ... it's always better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

  2. Anonymous2:38 PM

    Kevin, I am with you. I try very hard to write about positive examples on my blog. I think I have only had 2 or maybe 3 negative posts since I started, which you have seen and commented on. Even with those that were negative, I have tried to look at how others can do something different to make a great customer experience. This in spite of many emails that get sent to me about "bad customer service". Others seem to see blogs as a great place to vent. Not me.

    Let's keep striving to make the 'sphere a more positive place to hang out; I will do my part. Please nudge me (gently!) when I am not. ;-)

    Thanks for highlighting this issue!

  3. Folks --- if you want to see somebody who does a good job of pointing out the troubles customers face, while at the same time championing the positives, go read Becky's blog ...


    Becky does a good job of balancing criticism with highlighting positives.

    It's just so easy to find instances where businesses make mistakes, it happens to all of us everyday. Sometimes, we have to remember that there are people, teams of people just like us, working at those companies, making mistakes.

    Somebody needs to call out problems when they happen. This week, 7,500+ folks decided to pounce on a company that many would have heralded as a brand icon in the airline industry. We aren't always forgiving.

  4. "Are we writing all of this to demonstrate our subject matter expertise in managing large companies, crisis situations, or use of social media? "

    This is a lot of it. Many of the bloggers that slam these companies (including myself) are consultants. And many do indeed think if they can explain 'what they should have done', it will help them win clients.

    In my case, I wanted to make it CLEAR that I thought Neeleman's video on YouTube was great, but that simply adding an apology would have made it amazing. He came across as being completely human, and if he had simply apologized at the START of the video, it would have likely turned a PR fiasco into a PR home-run. It would have been all but impossible to criticize him after that, and anyone that did, would have been labeled as a total jerk by the rest of us.

    But you're right, we bloggers can be a pissy bunch. Remember what happened last summer when Dell started blogging?

  5. Mack, I'm glad to say you weren't the one that set me off. You're still in Google Reader.

    Your tone was balanced and fair. I think it is ok to point out that an A- could have been an A+.

    I imagine it is really hard to run a consulting business, and try to demonstrate subject-matter expertise via a blog. Someday, I too, will be in that situation. God help me!

    But for today, working at a very large multichannel apparel retailer with over a hundred years of brand heritage, based in the Pacific Northwest, I view things from the perspective of an executive at a very large brand. I see a lot of sharks swimming in the pool.

  6. Anonymous5:34 AM

    The customer doesn't expect everything will go right all the time; the big test is what you do when things go wrong."
    --Sir Colin Marshall,
    CEO of British Airways


  7. Anonymous6:19 AM

    I, too, am relatively new to the blogosphere and read a lot of stuff before starting my own.

    After going thru a lot of sites, I came to the conclusion that many bloggers are what I called "fume bloggers".

    That is, they blog off the fumes of whatever the most recent press story is, or off the fumes of other bloggers (e.g., "Seth had a great post today" and then copies and pastes Seth Godin's recent post).

    But you know what, Kevin -- that's their right. That's the power and beauty of the Web and blogs -- to give anyone who wants the ability to post what they want, and let their voice be heard (even if sometimes it isn't their voice).

    In the end, value will rise to the top. I would assume that you unsubscribed to the sites that didn't offer you any value.

    Let the 7500 bloggers post what they want about JetBlue. The challenge is finding the 5 who have something of value to say about it. And THAT'S what I look to people like you and Becky and a lot of the other Friends of Mine That Data for.

  8. Anonymous8:35 AM

    Interesting comments here, Kevin. I agree with your take that there's entirely too much whining and criticizing going on in Blogville... but I think it's partly because it's always easier to edit than write. In other words, it's always easier to criticize than to create.

    But I think your line of thinking -- handing out an A- rather than A+ -- is closer to the right approach, and one I think we all can strive toward.

    Nice post!

  9. Thanks for the comments, Ann & Ron.

    I received a lot of feedback on this topic. Some of the e-mails have been particularly profound. I guess I should have been ready for the polarization that occured after writing this.

  10. Here's my two cents, or should I say two syllables: Hooray!

    Thank you for going negative on those bloggers who constantly go negative. ;-)

    I will use mark one to help publicize the problem. And yes, I've already culled my blog list. As in life, I don't have much patience for those who constantly find fault. Life is too short, and although identifying problems is valuable, it's the solutions that change the world.

  11. Anonymous11:46 AM

    Thanks for the nice comments, Kevin and Ron.

    Kevin, I value your perspective from the executive's desk. People like you are the customer for many of us, and we need to listen to our customers! So again, thank you for bringing this to the forefront.


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