The Spamification of Trusted Words, Ideas, & Organizations

I am going to go on record offering you this powerful life-changing advice that will be the most valuable information you ever consumed. Sound familiar?

If you pay attention to spam you can view the trends and see where it is going before it even goes there. One of the big trends that is rarely talked about is how hard spammers hunt hard to find credible sounding words. In spite of being on the do not call list, every day I get a call from the message center, the card center, the consumer center, or the national consumer protection foundation, etc.

If at the core the business model was created to annoy people and steal from them then the people behind these outfits are going to be results oriented, using whatever techniques they find profitable (auto-dialers, powerful words, fake partnerships with trusted bodies, etc), until they burn away the profit margins.

Some words (and even formats) get so polluted that the perception of value goes down. Free killer ebook to change your world forever...chuck full of affiliate links for products not worth buying. Ebooks take more effort to create than web pages do, and so they were once somewhat trusted, but over time have been associated with spam because the format has been abused. Online video is fairly new, but it is already being heavily abused.

Trusted names and charities partner with businesses to extend out the public relations campaigns of the businesses. As featured in loses its value when anyone can go write a column. Consumer generated content is bolted onto mainstream media sites, but how much of it is as good as leading independent channels? The people who really have something to say probably already run their own websites, and the primary intent of most people participating on media sites is going to be nefarious in nature. Speaking of that, I just got a good idea. :)

On the flip side, some words become valuable because other people significantly invest to create the value behind those words. The value is greatest if you are sitting on the exact .com name that becomes popular, but even if people are propping up words in unrelated markets they still can drive up the value of domains with that word in them. These community sites also drive up the value of short domain names that can support a community of their own.

Published: January 28, 2008 by Aaron Wall in marketing


James Dunn
January 28, 2008 - 9:29pm

That first sentence got me all hyped up. You owe me some life-changing advice in an upcoming post soon.

January 29, 2008 - 9:58am

I agree with what you're saying, Aaron, but this stuff has been going on nearly as long as we've had language.

January 29, 2008 - 10:11am

Totally agree Brian, but I think with the web (and targeted trackable marketing) the lifecycle of each technique gets shorter and shorter as immitations occur almost immediately.

As an example, one technique for affiliates I heard at a conference, was to just steal the advertiser's creative and make them think that your AdWords ad was their ad. Keep running with it until they notice.

One group of well known internet marketers were asking me basic SEO questions and telling me how awesome my book was and that they passed it around their office and everyone loved it. One month after asking me the most basic questions they launched an SEO information product. How do they go from knowing nothing to creating and marketing expert level content in one month?

You were a bit of a trailblazer in pushing membership sites. The Teaching Sells launch was ~ 4 months ago. The same group of people who asked beginner SEO questions prior to launching their product just announced that they are selling a service oriented toward running membership sites.

Eventually that 4 month window will become a one week window.

January 29, 2008 - 9:58am

Television audiences are getting grayer and grayer and it's interesting to watch advertisements aimed at the pre-boomer set.

You'll see a man dressed in a slightly informal suit whose appearance and voice is warm -- he looks right at the camera, speaks slowly and carefully, and tells you how you can call the 800 number on the screen and the nice people there will set up your Medicare Part D benefits.

The keyword is sincerity. It works well on pre-boomers, but boomers were exposed, at an impressionable age, to an overload of signifiers of sincerity attached to things that were obviously and transparently false.

Authenticity came to replace sincerity. Part of the sordid story of the decline of music is how the guitar became a signifier of authenticity. Boomers got stuck on "classic rock" which is defined by it's rejection of synthesizers, sequencers, beat machines, punk, hip hop, new wave, and (for the most part) black musicians. This snobbery has been the death knell of "Modern Rock" based on the guitar -- since guitar music is "authentic" and automatically better than anything else, "Modern Rock" doesn't need to be good or innovative.

Boomers are certainly under the thrall of authenticity. Today's teens might well be past it. Hannah Montana transforms like a Japanese superheroine (Henshi Yo!) between acts of her show: from an brown haired ordinary teen to a glamor goddess. Gen X is a transitional generation: I've certainly seen enough signifiers of authenticity to have lost interest in the whole thing.

January 29, 2008 - 11:00am

>>Eventually that 4 month window will become a one week window.

Yes, this is the key point and it's spot on. The replication process is quite intense and getting faster, which is why we need to focus on building trademark businesses (based on brand) instead of businesses dependent on copyright law.

January 29, 2008 - 12:13pm

In classic sales, the hard close work for a long time. But as techniques traveled, salespeople found the old "closes" didn't work anymore. Hard closing worked against you.

It's all about trust - hard closes decrease trust.

A good salesperson still takes people on an emotional ride - just in a different way. Cold calling and closing become very, very easy when you do it differently than everyone else.

I would bet that since you have so much trust, there were many people who read your opening paragraph and got excited to learn what you were talking about. We trust you not to hype or only hype something truly great.

January 29, 2008 - 12:35pm

Sorry about the letdown on that first paragraph. I was just using their format. Truth be told the information others sell (using that format) typically is worse than and/or recycled content from my blog.

January 29, 2008 - 12:56pm

is that we trust you. Not to hype. To provide real value.

So we actually listen.

Coming from you (a trusted authority), those words still have meaning. They slip past our cynical exteriors and touch our emotional centers.

As Brian said, the words still work.

The challenge is - how do you create enough trust and authority so the words have a chance to work?

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