"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 22 May 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

One-To-None Marketing



Time and time again, groovy

ad-busters and très soigné

demystifyers have pointed out

that it's not the product that

counts, it's the marketing.



Gee, thanks. Through repetition

this critique has become

irritating enough that its

victims (i.e., anyone standing

near the keg when the Helpful

Harriet begins to hold forth)

may fail to note that this

analysis has two things going

for it that make its popularity

nearly unassailable: it's

obvious and it's wrong. This

combination of clarity and

falsehood is too powerful to

address directly, so let's all

just agree to call the product

vs. marketing axiom a Universal

Truth and move on.



On... to Salsa, "a story

involving Read Only chilies,

encoded dance, schools of

residual fish and mescal." No,

it's not a pitch for a new

website sponsored by Absolut. It's

the pitch for an old website

sponsored by Wall Data. Or, as

Paul A. Porter posted to Salsa's

threaded conversation space

called The Back Booth: "You've

got a real problem with getting

to the point, don't you?"



Paul was upset because he'd

explored every inch of the Salsa

website and couldn't find

anything he could properly

identify as a demo. "Is the

product as meandering as the

sales pitch?" Paul wanted to



Ah, Paul, you haven't been

listening. It's not a sales

pitch. It's marketing. And the

purpose of marketing is not to

make a sale, but to build brand

identity and create a community.



Salsa is not just a tool to

create database applications,

it's also a place, a lifestyle,

and a state of mind. The Salsa

community and the Salsa state of

mind resemble the nirvana

promised by certain religions.

Rarely, very rarely, community

members (please do not call them

customers, prospects, or marks)

emerge from their quiescent

happiness to murmur koans in the

Back Booth.


"I came here to find out what

SALSA was all about but I still

know nothing new," wrote Lavon,

on the seventh of May.


Congratulations, Lavon, and come

back soon.



Clearly, the skeptics ought to

chew on this one: a marketing

site that doesn't just hype the

product, but actively hides it -

marketing that puts the product

just out of reach, and places it

behind a veil of hypernarrative

that, like a magician's

handkerchief, seems too

insubstantial to mask deceit.

After the mumbo-jumbo is chanted

at a proud and skeptical crowd?

PRESTO - the object is gone.



It's a conundrum, and it makes

you realize why anybody who

speaks of mystification simply

can't be correct. Exposés of the

dirty tricks of marketing

presume an ulterior motive. When

ads replace products, it can

only be in order to sneak the

product back in at the end. For

the demystifyers, marketing is

salesmanship - marketing doesn't

actually replace the product,

but only appears to. In the end,

it's you who end up paying.



Not Salsa. Sure, there's a sales

pitch, but it's so labored and

unconvincing that you finally

have to conclude it's only a

mime of a sales pitch, stuck in

the website in order to satisfy

cursory inspection. Nobody is

actually going to buy off this




Is this really the farthest limit

of salesmanship, or is it only

the closest signpost on the road

that leads toward a new

marketing horizon that can only

be characterized as religious?

Imagine salesmanship without

sales. Now imagine the World

Wide Web. Now close one eye and

concentrate until the two images

merge. That wasn't hard, was it?

Clearly, Salsa was made because

they felt like it, and for no

other reason.



Of course, that doesn't mean

that they weren't paid - on the

contrary, the salesmanship involved

in Salsa must have been, as they

say, "front-loaded." It was the

salesmanship that went into

selling the idea of a website

illustrated by Dave McKean.

Good for them! Our good

friend Martha Rogers knows all

about this: "Growth in the Age

of Mass requires a constant

stream of new customers,

purchased with a currency of

promotions, deals and

discounts... Business today is

poised on the brink of a new




It is an age without customers.

Without sales. An age (or Age,

as they have it) when marketing

serves purposes of its own, and

when products function as the

absent totems of commercial

mysteries. An Age when consuming

products becomes the ultimate

purpose in life, a religious




On March 1, somebody posted the

following message in SALSA: "Let

us know what sort of

applications you have made using

SALSA for the Desktop." There

were no replies.

courtesy of Dr. McLoo