Posted October 1, 2010 8:19 am by with 0 comments

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According to Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, we here in the US are so self –absorbed that we do whatever we want and really don’t pay attention anyway to the details like pricing of products etc. Unfortunately, his remarks weren’t too far from the truth. The remarks were also an incredibly stupid thing for a CEO to say but that’s for another post.

Another apparent habit of us here in the US is embellishment. Really?!?!? In a larger sense we tend to distort things especially when we pass them on to others. Ever play that silly kid game of ‘telephone’ with adults? Start a message at one end of a line of 25 folks and see what it has morphed into when it is passed along one person at a time. Embellish? Distort? Nah, not us. Not in the land of ‘experts’, ‘mavens’, ‘ninjas’ and other distorted reality self proclaimed titles? Really?!?!?!?

Check out the chart below from eMarketer and Burston-Marstellar. You can see why this propensity to distort reality can be a real problem for marketers.

The brief article then says

PR and communications firm Burson-Marsteller analyzed more than 150 messages sent out by companies in the Financial Times Global 100 list of firms and discovered a large gap between the messages that went out and how they were covered on blogs.

Message distortion was highest for companies in Latin America and the US, with a global average of 69% of blog postings not reflecting the message companies were trying to send. According to the report, bloggers tended to include “opinions, personal experience, knowledge of competitors and products, and speculation.”

Whoa wait a minute? How are we defining ‘brand distortion’ here? If it means that people (in particular, bloggers) don’t send the exact message that a company is trying to push out to the buying public but rather includes opinions and personal experience then I say “Distort away!” I also say to this research “No s$#%, Sherlock”. That’s one of the major plusses of social media which is learning about actual experience of a brand rather than the Fantasyland version that marketers produce. It’s about the truth and if truth is a distortion of a brand message then maybe you better check the message.

Firms like Burson-Marstellar are actually masters of distortion (read: PR) so this kind of research is a bit ironic coming from them. I say that if opinions, personal experience and competitive knowledge are bad things then we should ignore this research and just going about our business. That’s the whole point of all of this! If we blindly trust every marketing message that has ever been shoved down our throat we’d all be driving Yugos while smoking cigarettes and eating a stick of butter because the makers of those things think it is in our best interest to buy them.

This is why I am extremely cautious about research in this space. When you see any infographic (which is all the rage) don’t get sucked in by the chart or the pretty picture and just take it as the truth. Dig a little and see what is really being said. You may find that what was being marketed by that research could be embellishment right out of the gate. When that’s the case, you have to put on your caveat emptor caps and use some discretion.

After that, if you want to distort and embellish some more go right ahead because apparently it is the American way.