Authenticity and the Future of Marketing

By | January 8, 2011


Since it’s the beginning of a new year, a lot of people are giving predictions and forecasts about what’s going to happen next.

My brother-in-law Micah (whom many of you know from Push Button Marketer, and from my helpdesk) showed me a video recently that I’d like to share with you. It was filmed almost a year ago at the 2010 D.I.C.E. Summit, which is basically a conference for video game developers.

Before you watch the video, I want to mention a couple things…

From my website analytics, I happen to know that the readers of Eric’s Tips tend to skew older than 45 years old, and in fact many of my readers are over 65. I guess my “old fashioned” family values, and methodical teaching style appeals more to that generation than it does to today’s youth, and that’s OK.

That having been said, I think the following video will give you some great insight into the psychology of today’s market and marketers. If you’re someone who is out-of-touch with the video game generation, it contains some especially important concepts for you to grasp.

If you’re building a business in today’s market environment, these are things to consider. Here is Jesse Schell, who is a video game developer and professor at Carnegie Mellon University:

Here are a few thoughts and points I’d like to highlight…

  • He said “Lead generation is more valuable than direct payments”. This reinforces what myself and other Internet marketing teachers have been saying for years… the money is in the list. The reason lead generation is so profitable is because marketers are willing to pay for those leads.

  • I liked what he said about feeling obligated to spend money on something BECAUSE you spent a lot of time on it already. The “elastic velvet rope”, as he calls it. Huge marketing lesson there.

  • I also appreciated what he said about Webkinz and other kids toys. My wife and I saw this one coming a couple years back, when our kids received some Webkinz as a gift, and subsequently got involved in the correlating virtual world.

    Schell does a good job explaining some of the psychology behind it, and how it’s used to make money. But one thing he did not mention is how our kids are being CONDITIONED to buy online. Within weeks, I could see how all of these “points” and virtual dollars were affecting how my kids viewed money. Pretty soon, $400 was no big deal. It was just a number to be spent at the Webkinz store on some virtual furniture for the virtual avatar of their stuffed animal.

  • My favorite part of the talk was the part about “reality” and “authenticity”. This is an area that I began to see years ago, and put it to use in my own business. For the past five years or so, my self-appointed title under my picture on this website was “real life internet marketer”. This was an effort to set myself apart from all the “fakes” who were teaching IM without first being successful at it, and who were hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. And it served me well.

    As Mr. Schell demonstrates, using “real” and “authentic” is currently a hot trend in marketing, and is working well. But a few months ago, I changed my tagline, because I’m anticipating what I believe will be the next trend of authenticity, although it may take years to get here.

    In my opinion, as the “authenticity” trend becomes oversaturated by marketers in all industries, eventually it will not be enough to say you’re real. Instead, you’ll have to BE real. So instead of saying I’m a “real” marketer, I’m just going to say what I am, and let you be the judge of whether I’m real.

    Perhaps that’s idealistic of me to think that way, but I think it coincides with the sentiment of today’s youth. They’ve been burned a million times by those in their parent’s generation who say one thing and do something else. They want someone to speak and live the truth.

    Now, here’s a little tangent, in which I may or may not contradict myself, depending on how you see it…

    I am NOT saying that I think good will soon triumph over evil in the marketing world. To the contrary, human nature will continue to prevail, and unethical marketers will prosper (from a business standpoint).

    When I posted recently about me-too marketers, the feedback in the comments was overwhelmingly negative regarding the marketing practices I was analyzing. There were calls for boycotts. Yet those marketing practices are showing no signs of slowing down right now.

    So I do not predict that the pendulum will swing to the side of “ethical” marketers. For now, it may swing toward the side of those who SAY they are real and ethical. Unfortunately, many of those are the least ethical of all.

    But while unethical marketing will prosper until the end of time, it appears that the path has been paved for truly authentic marketers to prosper too. If you’ve got what’s “real”, the market will be looking for you.

  • He talked about technological convergence, and suggested that technological DIVERGENCE is more the norm. I’m not sure about this one. He pokes fun at the iPad, but I think he was proven at least partially wrong on that point due to the iPad’s ensuing success.

  • I don’t agree with the picture he paints of a world where everything involves earning points. I’m sure we’ll see some of it, as his contemporary examples seem to indicate more to come. But in my opinion, while technology and advertising WILL be integrated into everything we touch, not all of it will be a game. Of course I could be wrong. After all, the future world will not be built by us. It’ll be built by the video game generation 🙂

    As always, you are welcome to post your comments below.

    Have a great day!

  • 89 thoughts on “Authenticity and the Future of Marketing

    1. Gary C.

      Its true, unethical marketers will always continue to make money, but at what expense? I recently received many emails about a product, and in the title they insisted I had $10 waiting for me. I’m fine with hype, but this finally hit a nerve. It seemed sleazy, and I unsubscribed myself from several lists.

      I’m a Internet software engineer, and IM should theoretically be easy for me. But, I’ve been struggling for several years to build a solid online business. I’ve realized that it has a lot to do with my inability to stretch the truth and my discomfort with spewing the same hype everyone else does or using gray/black hat methods.

      I’m on many lists, but actively follow only a few people who I believe are real. And, I buy more products from them, time after time. Eric, I consider you to be one of those “real” people. Thank you, Gary

    2. Sharon Marsh

      Fantastic talk. I too enjoyed the authenticity piece of the talk.

      Scary about his interpretation regarding our future world.

    3. Kevin at VeloteqEbikes

      Thanks for posting this very interesting video! I am starting a new semester of teaching biology on Monday, and I think I will try incorporating the idea of earning “experience points” and attaining different levels to earn a particular grade. I do think there is a lot to be said about gaming psychology and how it may influence our behaviors in both subtle and blatant ways moving forwards.

    4. Abdullah

      If the evil will triumph over the good and authentic, i think that’s one of the major signs that the world is coming to near end.

    5. Laura

      I love this video…great insights – I can’t wait to see what the future holds and how I will be a part of it.

    6. Michaela

      Oh! Eric, you make my day with this video and your comments as well.
      The guy is “authentic” for sure, and probably he is over 60% right, but he is convince that he is 100% right… so this makes him authentic!
      I personally think that now in Internet marketing there are a lot of wrong, lets say, practices. You see I am polite as I am the old generation as you say… LOL
      Hype, this is nothing, it is boring norm, what about flat lies, 7 level OTO’s, me-too, masive unsubscribers and so on.
      So he is right, some changes are and must be on the air, not over night, but it will be, and I have the intuition that the new generation will find the right form, substance, psichology to change all this.
      FB is unpredictible, intriguing in many ways, adicted, maybe this is the begining of the process…
      I am not agree with you that un-ethical marketers will be prosperous forever.
      Regards and a great New Year

    7. Eric Post author

      “Its true, unethical marketers will always continue to make money, but at what expense?”

      I agree. And they will pay for it eventually. Also, while unethical marketing will keep working, the individuals perpetuating it often have short-lived success. It’s definitely NOT a formula for long term success or happiness.

    8. Eric Post author

      Haha that’s great 🙂 You’ll be perpetuating the vision. I probably would too.

    9. Eric Post author

      Haha, OK… here’s 5 points for reading the post, plus 10 points for commenting. Plus another 5 points because I replied to your comment.

      Actually there ARE plugins for that (keeping a running tally of top commentators, etc).

    10. Peter Dudek

      We know what books our grandparents read because there weren’t that many different titles to read. They read the classic books of western civilization. And with the ideas from those books, they built a society of personal freedom and responsibility. They were honest, hard-working, God-fearing people who gave us a better world than they started with. And we have turned it to complete and utter shit because of unbridled self-absorption as described and in fact, personified by this dangerous and sinister man.

    11. Tanya Young

      This video was very interesting. The games the gamers are playing is very unsetalling(gurus). I am just getting into the net of things, and It is very disheartening of what is really going on out there. Like you have been tought all of you life, if it seems to good to be true then it most likely is.

    12. Peter

      Hi Eric,

      Unfortunately I haven’t been reading a lot of your posts lately as I’ve been swamped by so called gurus trying to peddle me their latest IM product.

      They are pretty good at creating a “must have this” sales letter but when they start saying things like “only 200 copies will be released” I immediately go to the bottom & look for the “affiliates” button which they all seem to have.

      That’s when the game is up for me & should be for every one else.I’ve recently blocked 10’s of names (which I had subscribed to in order to keep my net on the pulse so to speak)because of their deceitful tactics.

      I can identify with all that Gary C has to say.

      It’s heartening to know that there are decent folk out there like Eric who are genuinely trying to help some of us get on to the road to internet success. (rather than waste our money & time on I.M. con men)

      P.S. Haven’t even seen the video yet!

    13. Jorge Dutra

      Hi and Hello Eric, It was a fascinating clip you showed. Just to mention, all that will come will not affect me at all, I am a reality person. Also to say my mind works very creativitaly and will not be obsorbed to all this commercialization to come.

    14. Tim W

      I recently read a book entitled: “Money, Greed and GOD” by Jay W. Richards. Basically it says capitalism is what will save us (financially) vs Socialism, communism, etc. He makes very compelling arguments. He defines capitalism as meeting the needs of the market as a primary goal. SO, in reference to the video, Schell is saying that the demand will drive the development of the product. Developers of the product and their marketers will manipulate and influence the continued use of the product through psychological means. Some will do so by subversive means (selfishness) and others will do so on a “real”, “authentic”, putting the customer first basis and ethical means (putting self interests after the customer’s interests). Pray that the latter will prevail. It’s what capitalism is really all about.

      Have a blessed day.

    15. Jules

      I have some concerns for facebook into the future – so many are now there daily, and it seems that our emails will soon be enmeshed in facebook – and yet if you have any difficulties with facebook, you cannot get through to anyone or get any response (like google) and like google they have the control and can suddenly change tack! There is no customer support, or consideration. So if businesses are building their pages on facebook, and personal accounts are on facebook, and emails will be on facebook – what do we then do if facebook suddenly changes things, or stomps on an account and wipes out a business based facebook page? Like the google slap, and their daily changing algorithms, but probably with potentially wider consequences. We will all be vunerable to whatever they choose to do, and have no recourse. What are your thoughts?

    16. Luca Di Nicola

      Yup we live in a “Bubble of fake BS”

      From TV shows, to video games to Internet Marketing. Unfortunately our society wants it.

      Let’s face it if people did not watch the reality” shows or buy the unethical newest Internet Marketing magic button products they would go away.

      There’s a market for it, we create the market and then we complain.

      It’s time we take responsibility for our action to better our society.

      Interesting that your demographic is 45 and up – I’m 53 so I think I’m going to watch this video with my kids 19 and 22 and then maybe leave a comment with their thoughts – should be

      Cool video though – thanks

      Eric, keep keeping it real

    17. Joanne

      WOW. That was extremely interesting…..and pretty scary…. Thanks for sharing Eric.

    18. Eric Post author

      there is no doubt that Facebook, like Google, holds a lot of power on the web. And yes it will be interesting to see how they use that power.

    19. Susan

      A very eye-opening video, to say the least. During the last segment where he was describing the future “typical day” all I kept thinking was that, should that scenario ever come to pass, I think I’ll either find a cave to live in, or walk off a cliff somewhere!
      I think I’ll have to think about this a while so that I can find something positive because I’m feeling pretty negative about marketing at this moment.

    20. Joseph Krueger

      Hello Eric – I find your dissertation both interesting and refreshing. Before I comment further, let me say that I have been scouring the world of online marketing for several months now in an attempt to identify valuable resources for the displaced executives that visit our training site (free job search training for senior managers & professionals), too many of whom will never be able to replace their lost jobs. I suspect that many of the over-65 subscribers on your list fit into this category. You are one of a handful that I would feel comfortable recommending. P.S. I am a 35-year veteran of the direct marketing industry so I have an unusual perspective on the internet marketing world.

    21. Joe

      Hi Eric,
      I don’t know where you get the time for giving this free information but it’s great.
      I think that the FCC or FTC or whatever else worldwide organisation dealing with Internet business practices will play a factor in the future of marketing etiquette. They seem to be attempting to do that now with the latest requirements and will probably impose many more rules in the future. That being said the people out there currently playing a fair game will get hit the least when they are handing out fines.

    22. Jan

      You know, incorporating some of the gaming psychology into Educational systems may not be such a strange idea. Gamers are competitive and if they can score points may be it will make learning not only more fun, but will bring out a ready-made scoring system that has more relevance to today’s students.

    23. Ruby Garson

      Hello Eric,

      Thanks for the insight! I agree, except on the part of the fake businesses continuing to succeed.

      I say this because…

      I believe that as a world of nations, we are seeing a global turn around in thinking, from people buying whatever we see–even if it’s toxic–to people looking into living a more healthy life style.

      I also believe the “Real” Nutrition and health and wellness markets will increase, as the baby boomers are looking to save their youth and live longer, healthy and more vibrant lives.

      If you don’t know or haven’t heard about the toxins that are causing diseases world wide, email me, give me a call or go online to request more information about our FREE informational webinar.

      This information will leave you in awe, and is offered by invitation only. So If you are reading this, consider yourself blessed–you are invited.

      Check out this informative weminar today and find out how you can keep your family healthy.

      I look forward to getting to know you.

      To Your Life Success,

      Ruby E. Garson

    24. stargaterich

      Thanks for the great video Eric. I like the message regarding ‘points’. Basically I guess it is human nature to get things done so long as there is the motivation and ‘points’ are great motivating factors that works into people’s feel good emotion.

    25. Scott

      Eric, back in the 70’s, in Australia there was this saying ‘Get real’ it was used when someone was clearly exaggerating or handling the truth carelessly. Maybe we can start using that again? Just remember, It’s all Madness!

    26. Kathy

      Hi Eric,

      thanks for the input,it took me back a few weeks ago when i bought myself a new laptop with a built in camera a friend of mine made a comment with regards that through my computer i could be spyed on! Of which of course i laughed but,not so sure now after the video, but again, saying that i have found myself in the past few weeks of my purchase holding telephone conversations etc; away from my laptop-lololl
      I personally don’t play farmville and get annoyed with my friends and family when they talk over FB on how many points they have from their last game etc
      But, what i think your very insightful brother-in-law is trying to say to us all is, mind control ( you know, plant the seed in the brain with a certain suggestion and all will behave in a certain way that benefits the big fish, a better controlled society but here is a suggestion or a question that i would like to have asked your brother-in-law: if this is all for a controlled better society , does he think that maybe religion, orthodox medicine will be a thing of the past- hey thats just my thought of analysing further on the video message???
      Yes, the world is changing very fast, and in
      this i have always said that the future
      generation will be the ones to do that and that future generation started back in the 70’s,the world will sorted and for a better
      world for all that have been bashed-beaten
      through the generations for their honesty and good principles- so me, i look forward to the future when i see my son, and their friends who were born in the 70’and early 80’going against in principle what we older generation
      put up with for years!!
      You know way back in the 70’s in the Uk TV there was a tv series called the prisoner and in the film he would say ‘ I am not a number ‘ as he was trapped and kept like a prisoner in a make believe virtual world ( Village ) any-one remember that program ( Patrick Mckeown the actor was ) as he was referred as number 6’
      hey sorry to ramble on, but the video and it’s message opened up my gray cells – so to speak-loll
      But, please ask your brother-in-law about my question with regards to religion and orthodox meds, as would personally love to know what he thinks regards to that, thank Eric and Happy New Year to you and your family!!!

    27. Donovan

      Wow! The lights went on for me in answering the question why we have a slew of these reality shows on tv.

      I was amazed that Mafia Wars was the only game, mentioned, that I was aware of. I do use an I phone. I guess that I really need to start being more aware of what it going on in the technological advances around me.

      Great video Eric, thanks for sharing.


    28. Roy Aylmer

      Thanks Eric
      As usual, you are displaying your knack of seeing the golden nuggets (of useful information) buried in the mud of internet BS
      Keep up the good work
      Roy Aylmer

    29. John

      This thread makes me very sad.

      The fate of humanity hangs on our marketing strategy? Our authenticity?

      Civilization made it 99.8% of the way here without so much as a bar of soap. Think about what that means.

      The Dogma of Capitalism got here around the same time as soap. About .2% time ago.

      The Gospel of Love was taught specifically to overcome the ancient Gospel of Competition. That’s right – it was a known failed program, for human beings, 2000 years ago. Darwin notwithstanding.

      Just because one chooses to ignore the past doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

      And just because one chooses not to ignore it doesn’t make one superior.

      What it does mean is that neither technology nor money is very important to LIFE. In the BIG scheme of things. If the power went off tomorrow – a vast majority of us would needlessly perish soon thereafter. Specifically, we have little appreciation for or awareness of LIFE itself.

      Nobody knows why a seed sprouts. In the ground or in the womb. We “know” tons of other stuff – none of which will add 2 seconds to our life if we run out of fire, air, earth or water. Or seeds.

      The human race will continue to survive with or without any authentication from anyone. You know why? Because each and every one of us already IS authentic. For good or for ill, we are all authentic. Making an issue about it just shows how far we are from knowing who and where and what we actually are.

      You don’t need the Big Authority Seal Of Authenticity. You do need LIFE.

      The famous anthropologist Margaret Mead told of an incident that provides prospective on our situation. They were working in an “uncivilized” area and decided to see if they could civilize them ASAP. That entailed installing telephones in every hut, among other things. One day when she was out interviewing the natives about the coming wonderment, a woman stopped her in the middle of the interview, excused herself, went outside and began yelling something at the trees. When she returned Ms. Mead resumed her questionnaire and asked the woman how having a telephone might change her life. She told her that one thing that would be good was that she could just call her husband on the phone to tell him to pick up some sugar while he’s in town – INSTEAD OF GOING OUTSIDE AND TELLING THE TREES TO TELL HIM – AS SHE HAD JUST DONE.

      We are obsessed with what we don’t have. And have lost touch with most of what we already do have. Authentically.

      Oh yeah, Ms. Mead reported that he did bring the sugar.

    30. Geri Winters

      Thanks for the eye-opening video Eric!

      In terms of the sensor stuff, a lot of that is already going on. Not the points, but there has already work been going on to develop shopping carts that have sensors that work with the RFID in a product, so when you go past a product the cart can tell you if it is on sale (for example). RFID outside a restaurant could be picked up by a sensor in lets say an Iphone that then displays the restaurant information to you as you walk by, with menus and specials of the day. (There are other ways to do this as well.)

      In the interest of getting all this useful information, people are using these devices, not realizing how much information is being collected about them in return. OK, there are no points right now, but that is an easy step to get these technologies even more accepted.

      None of us really realizes how much information is being collected about us already every day. Jesse Schell is just talking about pushing it to a possible next logical level. I don’t know that it will happen that way, but I can certainly see a lot of people finding the whole idea very interesting.

    31. John

      why am I watching a video of a seminar at 12.30am? Because you sent me the link, Eric & I know that you provide great value to your subscribers. This was great – many thanks – but it’s gonna be tough getting to sleep now as I consider this convergent connectedness conundrum of the future facebook fusion of fact finance & feelings DOH! 🙂

    32. Annie

      Hi Eric

      As a retired teacher (UK) I have to admit to using points as bribes. I used to give points for improvement – academic, behaviour, time-keeping, you name it. For a certain number of points a student won a small prize e.g a candy bar or piece of fruit. Peer pressure led to a large increase in fruit eating, mostly to please me, I think. However, only one other member of staff could control my tutor group. She had a similar personality to me.
      The moral? Points systems are a two edged sword.

    33. Todd

      So I digested this video and I think it is one of the most terrifying videos I have ever seen

    34. gerald

      You are indeed an insightful, perceptive individual. This is a blessing. It is obvious to me that it comes from being blessed. I hear you saying, “Whatever you do, the good will come through.” Eric, Thank You for your always-timely, genuine guidance.

    35. gerald

      As for the video, I watched an intentionally thought provoking parody of future possibilities that ended with a rhetorical question. It brought me to a self assessment where I asked, “what actions will I take to shape tomorrow?” IMing and technology give me tools that can be guided by faith if I intend it. Stand at the mirror and ask, “Am I responsible?” Yes? Mission accomplished. (Hope this makes sense).

    36. Eric Post author

      Exactly. RFID (scary stuff) is proof that this kind of technology IS being integrated into everything we touch. But it remains to be seen whether it will turn into a game.

    37. Eric Post author

      I think it will become more and more important. But I haven’t jumped on the “mobile marketing” bandwagon that we’ve seen in the IM world, because it’s being taught in a very gimmicky way. As we see divergences in technology, there will be opportunities to market to new platforms in new ways. One example would be the ads that pop up on my car’s GPS for local places as I drive by them. And as we see convergences, there will be opportunities to market to them in old ways. For example, the iPad, which is a convergence of sorts, is a fairly traditional web browser. So we can target iPad users through traditional internet marketing methods. I think SMS is here to stay for awhile, so it’s a great marketing medium. But it’s short (like twitter), so it’s not as powerful for my business model as email still is. IMO it’s best suited for local businesses currently. There will be more and more mobile marketing opportunities as various technologies progress, and many of them will have nothing to do with cell phones or what we consider to be mobile devices today.


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