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Branding and the Internet – Is There a Soul in the Machine?

December 4, 2012

Branding And The Internet on Atlantic BT blog

Does the Internet Brand?

Had a major disagreement with a friend today. He asserted the Internet is the biggest branding machine the world has ever seen. I disagreed. He wasn’t surprised (lol).

I explained that the Internet doesn’t create anything. The web magnifies things. In fact, I have no trouble calling the Internet the largest lie-detecting amplifier ever created. To assert that the Internet is capable of branding means the web creates something.

This may be one of those philosophical arguments. We blog, therefore we are. But I see the rift as deeper than semantics. The Internet, at its core, is nothing but a set of self perpetuating rules (math). The only soul inside the machine relates to a need for gains in efficiency in order to stay one step ahead of the flood of content coming down the valley.

I see WHY my friend locates some positive capability inside the largest content network the world has ever imagined, much less created. In the presence of LARGE things, we often seek a higher purpose. We seek the invisible hand. We anthropomorphize the monster under the bed, the moonless dark in the wood and anything controlling so much of our lives. Surely there must be a soul,  a meaningful pattern, a master controller deciding who wins, who loses.

Not so much, as it turns out. The Internet is an emergent system. Like bees, ants or weather, it does what it does because of “ancient” genetic code buried so deep we don’t have the tools to connect the millions of dots that fly into existence each second. The Internet does what it does because a butterfly flapped its wings in China. The only sure thing is that millions will become trillions, and so Curation is the Next Web Revolution.

The difference between my friend’s view that there is a soul in the machine creating branding and my soulless amplifying lie detector is control. In his vision, control exists. In mine, control is random, chaotic and full of black swans landing on your pond. There are important implications for Internet marketers if they are working with a soulless amplifier such as:

  • Amplification is valueless, so GOOD and BAD can and will be equally amplified.
  • BEFORE approaching the Internet, having one’s marketing act together is a good idea.
  • Even tiny exposure to the Internet can change each “marketing act” in significant ways.
  • Flexibility, speed of response and listening are key Internet marketing (and so new branding) skills.
  • Internet marketing is a little like gambling, you need to calculate cost vs. benefit odds on the fly.
  • The only BAD bet in Internet marketing is not to bet.

Our visions have different strategic and tactical implications. If the Internet is a massive branding source, sort of like that huge Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters, then Internet marketers hand over ideas and work product to the soul in the machine for judgement. If the Internet is an amplifier, then it explodes what you’ve done 100x, changes marketing and branding in real time and rewards those who listen, can read a spreadsheet and respond. Wishing for a soul or a large Mashmallow Man doesn’t make it so.

Does The Internet Brand Marshmallow Man Atlantic BT


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3 Responses to Branding and the Internet – Is There a Soul in the Machine?

  1. Molly says:

    Interesting debate, but have to agree with you, Martin. I believe a BRAND has a soul, but the Internet on its own is a soul-less tool.
    It is like a power saw with a big, bad motor. It has powerful potential by design, but without someone initiating purpose, it may as well be a rock. A marketer activates the brand amplification power of the Internet by initiating purposeful communication (communicating a brand’s soul/branding, sales with or without branding, destruction and trolling even…) That purpose is amplified by the use of the tool.

  2. Pingback: Does The Internet Have A Soul? | blog seo tips and tricks

  3. Marty Smith says:

    Great comment Molly. Love the power saw analogy. I heard a VP from Warner Brothers describe the process, as only a Hollywood person can, as, “Putting impressions into the marketplace”. She was discussing their social marketing of The Notebook. “I KNOW Social Media made those sales go up because that was the ONLY thing we were doing”. When power saw meets skilled woodsman trees fall. Thanks Molly. Hope you are ready for Christmas and had a great Thanksgiving. Marty

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