Spot the difference: academic theory or marketing concept?

Ian Delaney has a great quotation from Lincoln University’s Dr Brian Winston from the MediaFutures08 conference the other week:

"We are in a condition where we conveniently forget the years of discovery, exploration and mistakes that lead to whatever is in today’s headlines. We’re also conditioned into accepting the rhetoric of marketing as fact. Web 2.0 favourite theories like ‘the wisdom of crowds’, ‘the hype cycle’ and ‘crossing the chasm’ are actually commercial products, not independent academic studies."

This is something that a lot of digital, marketing, PR and advertising types should really take into account – and I mean *really*.

We all need a reality check from time to time and this is the best I’ve read for long time.

The significant point here is that we are all quick to grasp concepts that shore up our prespective on the marketing and communications industry, but how often do we check to see whether what we evangelising is 100% proven.

I’m not suggesting that there is no truth behind the Wisdom of Crowds or The Long Tail. However, I am saying that empirical evidence can easily be misunderstood or misrepresented to make an argument. This situation is compunded where there is a financial or commercial imperative for specific results or results that support a particular world view.

UPDATE: On looking up the Wikipedia entry on Wisodm of Crowds I discovcered the following Wiki-warning:

"This article is written like an advertisement. Please help rewrite this article from a neutral point of view."

Which seems to me a clear enough reminder – if one was needed – of the theory’s commercial purpose.

Technorati tags: Ian Delaney, Dr Brian Winston, marketing theory, PR, Wisdom of Crowds, The Long Tail

Comments

  1. Very good point Simon. Interestingly those ‘theories’ are all encased in books. Having just written one myself and been part of the publishing thing I can report the perhaps not surprising truth that the pressure is to write something that is interesting and sells much more than to write something that is true or nuanced. Nuance is difficult to understand or describe on dust jacket and so authors tend towards the sweeping and all-encompassing theory and then look for examples to back that up. Polemic rather than discussion if you like. That siad, perhaps it is a bit of “buyer beware” and the reader should be their own contextualiser. Few people after all, believe all they read in the newspapers…we are used to taking what is presented and filtering it.

  2. Useful post, Simon. Winston is right, and partly for the reasons David suggests. It is important that we have thinkers able to identify new trends but too often real insight is packaged up into something that fits a cover blurb and is pushed too hard.

  3. Absolutely right, David. I know eactly the kind of “business book” you’re taking about there.
    I’m sure there is a similar drive to publish in academic circles too – Philip?

  4. Absolutely right, David. I know eactly the kind of “business book” you’re taking about there.
    I’m sure there is a similar drive to publish in academic circles too – Philip?

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