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Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices [Paperback]

Christopher Locke
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 17 2002 Winning Through Worst Practices
A Harvard Business Review Top-10 Business Book of 2001Gonzo Marketing is a knuckle-whitening ride to the place where social criticism, biting satire, and serious commerce meet - and where the outdated ideals of mass marketing and broadcast media are being left in the dust. Invoking the spirit of gonzo journalism, Locke rails against business practices that treat customers like cattle, and urges marketers of all stripes to tap into Web-based communities, or "micromarkets," based on candor, trust, passion, and a general disdain for anything that smacks of corporate smugness. Gonzo Marketing shows how companies that support and promote these communities can have everything they've always wanted: greater market share, customer loyalty, and brand equity. Laced with Locke's inimitable wit and penetrating point of view, Gonzo Marketing is the raucous wake-up call that no one in business - from the trading-room floor to the boardroom - can afford to ignore.

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The coauthor of the no-more-business-as-usual blockbuster The Cluetrain Manifesto--which basically told Net-age marketers to stop talking at their markets and start conversing with them--follows up with a book that's more a highly entertaining, nimbly erudite screed against our current mass-market, mass-media culture than it is a recipe book for e-commerce marketing success in the post-cyberboom era. Writing in a paler imitation of the profanely irreverent, freely associative "gonzo" journalism style pioneered by his obvious idol Hunter S. Thompson, Locke starts with the by-now-familiar idea that old-style mass-marketing "broadcast" advertising just won't work on the Web. Indeed, he says, conventional print-ad tactics as embodied online by banners and pop-ups might actually generate more ill will than sales, and that's why companies must use the Web to somehow enjoin their products and services to the quirky niche interests of the gazillion individual cybercommunities (or "micromarkets") whose greatest advantage for marketers is how freely and speedily their members talk among themselves, touting a brand when and if it's truly deserved.

Useful examples of such enjoinment don't appear until a slim, penultimate chapter, and they are mostly theoretical in nature, e.g., what if Ford, after giving its employees worldwide free home computers and Net access (which it did), got all of them who were into organic gardening to infiltrate organic-gardening Web communities to push (via the subtle art of persuasion, one supposes) the niftiness of Ford pickups for organic gardeners? Truth be told, Locke seems more like a social critic or humanist at heart than a marketing consultant, and his essential disdain for corporations (which are anti-human, he declares, despite all their philanthropic tootle) leaves the reader wondering whether he really wants e-commerce to effectively pervade the Web's truly democratic, populist microcommunities for its own purposes. As his wonderfully cranky cult Web zine, Entropy Gradient Reversals, and his alter ego therein, RageBoy, have proven, the man's a smart, witty, broadly read cyberpundit. In Gonzo Marketing, he tweaks everyone from Disney, Time Warner AOL, and IBM to fellow biz-book writers like Seth Godin (Permission Marketing), and if you read it first for its own eclectic, acerbic delights and second for a postboom e-marketing primer, you'll be rightly pleased. --Timothy Murphy --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This latest offering from the coauthor of last year's The Cluetrain Manifesto puts a new spin on the age-old approach to marketing, which says businesses need to establish common ground with potential customers before they begin to try to sell anything. "At its heart, gonzo is animated by an attitude of deeply principled anti-professionalism in the best sense," says Locke, who purports to offer a new business template and a futuristic view of the marketplace. Although this work suffers from frequent dead-end tangents, hopeless self-indulgence and endless references to Locke's last book and his former coauthors, it does have a few shining moments. His theories are intriguing; in Locke's world, for example, employees of Ford Motor Co. who like organic gardening would be given space on the Ford Web site to communicate with other organic gardeners, thus reaching people who eventually could become Ford's customers, thanks to their online relationship with the gardening Ford employee. To his credit, Locke's nine maxims ("best practices usually aren't"; "storytelling is the path" to marketing success, etc.) do make sense, and his avoidance of Internet advertising and embrace of community involvement are refreshing. (Nov.)Forecast: Perseus will have to do a little gonzo marketing of its own to help this title break out of the saturated new business category.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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3.0 out of 5 stars Getting It March 14 2004
To bring humor to a topic requires mastery beyond that of a mere expert. In Gonzo Marketing: Winning through Worst Practices, Christopher Locke exhibits a lot of things, but most of all, his hilarious wit shines bright over the often drab concepts of business. His mastery is not of how business is done best, but how it's done worst.
While his feet might be firmly planted in the box, his head is decidedly unboxed. Locke evokes Esther Dyson's aphorism 'Always make new mistakes,' inviting corporate marketers and consumers alike to realize that markets aren't clean and tidy; they're messy and ugly - quick and dirty even. His ideas don't lend themselves to conclusive be-all, end-all solutions, but to random, dangling loose ends. And that's the point really, isn't it? The fault lines in the mass mind don't divide the markets, they are the markets. Their rumbling and shifting is where Gonzo Marketing collects and analyzes its data, like a seismograph of the new economy's undulating and ever-changing landscape.
While corporations scramble to make sense of the paradigmatic wreckage of the Web, Locke sits back laughing. The Web has reconnected consumers with each other. We converse online about everything. "Markets are conversations," asserted The Cluetrain Manifesto (of which Locke was one of four co-authors), belying any established attempt to contain or coerce them. Gonzo Marketing invites business types to abandon their old ideas about markets and just join in the conversation, dammit!
Don't come 'round here looking for answers to your marketing problems. Yes, we have no new panacea for your demographic woes today. But, if you're looking for an engaging romp through - and an enlightening rant about - the way business is done in the now, Gonzo Marketing is the blinking Exit sign on the box in your mind.
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A friend getting her Masters in marketing recommended this book to me. I have a website of columns and stories - essentially an organized blog - and have been trying to increase my visitors. That was the perspective through which I read the book: how can I use the suggestions Locke makes for business to improve their online presence to grow my own audience. While Locke doesn't focus on personal website, the book did get me thinking. As I read, I constantly had to pt the book down to jot down some new ideas.
The book got me to start thinking about who my target audience is. That's harder than it sounds, as I don't write about a specific subject, rather whatever I like. Locke recommends that companies let their employees become active in online groups about what interests them in an attempt to build credibility with these micromarkets in lieu of annoying web advertising. Effectively communicate with a plethora of micromarkets and all of a sudden the company has a significant online presence that doesn't irritate people. I followed that advice and started posting on sites that pertain to my interests. I don't blatantly promote my articles, but just participate in the conversation, figuring if someone is interested by my post he or she will click on my URL in my signature file or click on my bio, see my URL, and follow it through. Plus, I enjoy it.
Locke doesn't get too specific on his gonzo model until the next to last chapter. It covers only 20 out of 214 pages of the book. The rest of it is spent philosophizing and critiquing other forms of marketing. Did this help me? Yes. But it doesn't do much to push his model. He'd do a better job of selling it to businesses if he had a case study or two.
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2.0 out of 5 stars All filler, no killer Jan. 27 2003
Christopher Locke is known for his online rants against traditional corporate systems, and his last book Cluetrain was a hit with marketers looking to engage, rather than target, potential consumers. While I haven't read his rants or his previous book, I did have the dubious pleasure of receiving his new one, Gonzo Marketing, which apparently builds upon his ideas from Cluetrain, but adds more scattered filler.
Like his idol Hunter S. Thompson, Locke's writing is all over the place. Uptight suits might find his prose amusing and cutting-edge, but to me it seemed like a lot of hot air. After almost 200 pages of random etymology, philosophy, and sociology in the vein of Robert Anton Wilson, but spliced with embarrassing dad humor, he finally gets to his theory, which is that companies looking to market on the web shouldn't think about marketing. Rather, they should build personal relationships with potential consumers, but still not push their products or services, since that would still be a form of marketing (one-on-one, or personal selling). As an example, he suggests that Ford pay employees to stay home and build web sites based on their own personal interests, such as organic gardening. And instead of linking Ford to their site, Ford would link the gardening site and encourage people to visit these underwritten - but not sponsored - sites. The hope is that organic gardeners might somehow become interested in Ford's products.
While he makes some good points about consumers' repugnance of all forms of online advertising, and the overall ineffectiveness of mass communication on the web, his solution doesn't seem to hold much water or make any financial sense.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Where's the revolution?
Gonzo marketing was going to be the death of 'marketing as usual' in much the same way, I presume, that Cluetrain represented the "death of business as usual. Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2004 by "mbowman2"
3.0 out of 5 stars Good points, but too much rambling
I bought the book because I liked the ideas mentioned on the back cover. Reading it is a different experience, though. Read more
Published on May 28 2003 by David T. Catmull
5.0 out of 5 stars I Want to Believe
Upon finishing Cluetrainer Christopher Locke's masterful Gonzo Marketing, I said, "I want to believe."
I suppose I should clarify. Read more
Published on July 17 2002 by David E. Rogers
5.0 out of 5 stars Gonzo Marketing indeed
Gonzo Marketing is as much about author Locke as it is about marketing, "gonzo" or otherwise. Read more
Published on July 8 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather Esoteric
After reading about half this book, I just put it aside. Chris makes good points and hits home on the need to steer marketing in a direction that is better aligned with peoples'... Read more
Published on June 11 2002 by Adam F. Jewell
1.0 out of 5 stars Dangerous if it gets into the hands of a gullible manager
As a web marketing professional who translates corporate strategies into e-communications (including web), I found this book to be down right awful -- even dangerous if it falls... Read more
Published on June 6 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars It never happened to me, and I don't think it'll work.
I've been a fan of Chris Locke/RageBoy for quite a while. His attacks on Internet marketing gurus, those stupid know-it-alls on e-whatever, has been great, and had me rolling on... Read more
Published on May 3 2002 by Hiroo Yamagata
1.0 out of 5 stars Diamond mine
A real diamond mine--had to move a ton of coal to find one carat.
Published on Feb. 21 2002 by bbridgeforth
2.0 out of 5 stars ...
...He offers some interesting ideas, but unfortunately I doubt that any of his examples would result in positive ROI for any of the companies involved. Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book !
What a great book!
Some will say it falls short of solving marketing's pains. Excellent! My 2 cents: yeah, that's because what you want is a "solution". Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2002 by Massimo Moruzzi
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