April 07, 2007

Are Marketing Bloggers Positive, Critical, Or Something Else?

From November 1990 to March 2007, I worked at very large companies (Lands' End, Eddie Bauer, Nordstrom). And during that time, I read a lot of content about the companies I worked for from trade journals, and in recent years, from bloggers. My perception (the key word is "perception") was that "pundits" frequently took potshots at brands, that online commentary was overwhelmingly negative.

But is this reality? Is this what marketing authors actually spend their time doing?

To validate my hypothesis, I decided to "MineThatData". I reviewed 188 blog posts from April 1-7, 2007. These blogs were in Mack Collier's most recent list of the Top 25 Marketing Blogs. At the end of this post, I list the blogs that I tracked in this analysis.

Blog posts were categorized into nine categories:
  • New Technology. These were discussions about how new technologies impact the world (Twitter falls into this category).
  • Brand Analysis, Positive: These were general, positive discussions about brands. For instance, a blogger might complement Sprint for having outstanding phone design strategy.
  • Brand Analysis, Negative: These were general discussions about brands, discussions about missteps that brands took. Maybe the blogger listed eight things that Starbucks can do to get back on track, as an example.
  • Strategy/Opinion, Positive: These are posts where bloggers talk about strategic innovations that companies are implementing.
  • Strategy/Opinion, Negative: Similarly, these are posts that bloggers talk about strategic innovations that the blogger didn't like.
  • Links/News: Links to other sites, or announcements about news.
  • General Commentary: Topics that don't fit neatly into previously listed categories. A "Gaping Void" cartoon about being "pink" might fit into this category!
  • Blogosphere / Web 2.0 Commentary: Any discussion about other bloggers, use of "Social Media" or "Web 2.0".
Results were classified for the Top 10 Blogs, Blogs Ranked 11-25, and were aggregated in total.

Here's what the data tell us about the blog posts.
  • My hypothesis about "negativity" is over-rated. Only fourteen percent of the posts are about brand commentary, about sixty percent of these articles were negative or critical. Interestingly, the top ten marketing bloggers were largely negative when talking about a brand. Bloggers 11-25 were largely positive in their commentary about brands.
  • When talking about marketing strategy, this group of authors was positive by a margin of two to one. In other words, when describing a marketing strategy employed by a brand, the authors largely praised the strategy. Brands were criticized, as a whole, but individual strategies employed by brands were largely complemented. I did not expect to see this, going into the analysis.
  • Twenty-two percent of the posts were about blogging, use of social media, or other "Web 2.0" issues. This is interesting to me. I suppose this strategy depends upon who reads these blogs. I'm fairly confident that the marketing departments in corporate America spend a lot less than 22% of their time discussing these topics --- though I could be wrong. It raises an interesting point --- should marketing blogs be aligned with what marketing departments frequently talk about? I'd say there is no reason for alignment.
  • There is a difference in writing style between the top ten, and bloggers eleven through twenty-five. The top ten were more promotional, overwhelming more critical of brands, talked more about strategy, and talked significantly less about blogging/social-media/Web2.0.
I didn't change the world with this analysis. But I did prove to myself that there are a lot of positive comments about what companies are doing, and a lot of positive comments about marketing strategy that are useful to folks. If the reader wants positive, useful commentary, s/he simply has to go out and find it. I left having a better attitude about what I'm reading than I had going into this analysis.

What do you think? What do you think marketing authors should write about? What interests you most? What turns you off? Do you find bloggers to be largely positive, negative, or somewhere in-between?

Blogs Included In This Analysis: Seth's Blog, Duct Tape Marketing, Gaping Void, Marketing Shift, Marketing Profs Daily Fix, Drew's Marketing Minute, Converstations, New School of Network Marketing, The Viral Garden, Influential Interactive Marketing, Logic + Emotion, Coolzor, What's Next, Marketing Hipster, Brand Autopsy, Church of the Customer, Marketing Headhunter, Diva Marketing, Marketing Nirvana, Jaffe Juice, Hee-Haw Marketing, Spare Change, Experience Curve, Pro Hip-Hop Marketing, Emergence Marketing. Creating Passionate Users was left out, for obvious reasons.

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