Thursday, February 08, 2007

Can you package lightening?

I spent Wednesday sitting in the Colonnade Hotel at the MIT Enterprise Forum hearing about the “Brave New Web.” I heard a lot of interesting things and a lot that just didn’t make sense.

I’m not going to try and wrap the whole thing up here, just go through a few of my thoughts. Other people do that better than I. More a stream of consciousness.

One blogger I read noted that they didn’t get much more out of the forum than they would from reading a day’s worth of blog posts. Maybe, but I met a lot of nice people as well who are doing some interesting things.

Overall I came away with the impression that people are trying to package lightening.

In a morning discussion about venture capital in Boston (as opposed to San Francisco) someone suggested that Boston needed more home run hits, the major billion dollar IPOs and deals that would act as halos for the rest of the city. But that suggests deals such as Google’s purchase of YouTube are the norm rather than flukes.

A number of people focused on the fact that good content would rise to the top, pointing to such Web phenomena as and various popular YouTube videos.

All these things are nice, but you can hardly stake a marketing strategy on hitting the right blend of comedy and allure. That’s kind of like trying to predict the next big tabloid story. You just can’t do it.

All that said, it’s obvious that the key to a lot of marketing in this “brave new world” lies in passion. It’s not something you can fake but something you have to feel. It’s also what truly comes across in a blog or podcast. It’s also not something that everyone can convey. I met plenty of people who were well spoken, good looking and educated, yet never came across very well on TV. I also met their doppelganger.

The same thing exists online. You have people who can use these tools properly and those who can’t. The trick for entrepreneurs is finding someone to help them lean how to use these tools to translate passion into a marketing advantage.

I also came away wanting to see what’s coming next. A number of companies see social networking as an end into and of itself. But Jon Udell did talk about the idea of the inevitable “social networking fatigue” that has come up recently. The more interesting companies will not just rely on social networking itself to hook up friends with other friends so they can party, but will enable business and commerce.

At least, that’s my take.

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