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AIM Panel: Marketers Get An 'F' Online

NEW YORK — Marketers have done a terrible job online, said permission marketing guru Seth Godin and Yahoo general manager Jerry Shereshewsky at the Association for Interactive Marketing's Dinner and a Deal at Rosie O'Grady's here June 12.

The two spoke during a panel discussion themed “Permission Marketing: Has It Lost Its Edge?”

For the most part, Internet marketing is an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp and military intelligence, Shereshewsky said.

“Very few people are engaging in the process of using the Internet for what it's really good for,” he said.

Godin said he thinks many companies have been loath to adopt a true permission model because so-called interruption marketing is what made them the companies they are today.

“Companies don't like to change what got them there,” he said.

Rather than viewing permission marketing as a relationship-building process, marketers see it as a scheme, he said.

“I don't think [permission's] lost its edge,” he said. “I think it's lost some of its scam value.”

Godin also took a shot at third-party e-mail list rental, saying “99 percent of opt-in e-mail lists are bogus, worthless garbage. If someone wants to rent you the list, it's probably not worth renting.”

The best prospects are the people least likely to say they may occasionally want to hear about offers from third parties, he said.

“You want a list where if there isn't a mailing, people are going to complain,” he said.

The argument for permission marketing is not a moral one, he said. It is simply what he thinks will be a business imperative in an era where buyers have countless choices for any given product or service, generally all of which will suffice.

On the issue of e-mail appending, Godin said it's up to the consumer to determine whether it's spam. E-mail appending is where a direct marketing company matches its house file of postal addresses to a supposedly opted-in list of e-mail addresses and adds any matching e-mail address to its postal records.

“If the person who gets the mail thinks you spammed them, you did,” Godin said. “You have to ask yourself: Did you build brand equity, or did you build brand rage?”

On the subject of larger, more intrusive advertising online like pop-ups and pop-unders, Godin claimed they are a short-lived trend that will lose their ability to drive response once the novelty wears off.

“We're running out of ways to be more intrusive,” he said.

Shereshewsky said that the Internet's marketing woes are in its roots.

“We got in trouble early on because the people who invented the commercial Internet didn't really want it to be commercial,” he said.

Shereshewsky added that many marketers are intimidated by online marketing.

“Computers make a lot of smart people feel very stupid,” he said.

Godin also announced during the discussion that he will start a record company set to debut in late July. Dubbed Payola Records, Godin's label will carry what he calls aggressive acoustic music.

“It means no electric instruments, but no folk, either,” he said. “The company is called Payola Records because my goal is not to be played on radio stations.”

Payola Records' music also will not be available in retail stores, and marketing for the label will be viral. Godin said the music will be available only in Super Audio, or SACD, so there is less incentive to copy. Payola Records will offer subscribers eight CDs for $100 per year, he said.

Godin wrote the best-selling business book “Permission Marketing.” His latest book is “Survival Is Not Enough.”

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