NICK DOUGLAS — It's one thing to be your own #1 fan. But people like bloggers Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, and Jason Calacanis are their own worshippers. Guy is such a consummate self-evangelist that he's practically his own pope. Seth's number one product is himself. Jason thinks he's Ari Gold from Entourage. How do they pull this off, and how do some wannabes fail to build their own cults of self?
Remember when Tom Cruise was fun and not so insane? That's Guy Kawasaki, the venture capitalist who blogs about getting people excited about a product and achieving astounding growth. Unlike some other self-marketers, he's got real chops; Guy is known as the father of corporate evangelism thanks to his work marketing the Macintosh to developers. He's also self-effacing and positive.
Guy's bio is so well-written that he manages to pump himself up while still seeming humble. It's like listening to an Obama speech. Of course, it could all be carefully manufactured, but I'd like to think not. I found the following sentence most telling — a line that's so over-the-top it has to be sincere: "I wonder how I came to deserve such a good life."
Photo: J. Parks
The man's a branding machine. His logo is his own bald head. Seth Godin has written eleven marketing books, including Purple Cow, his term for that special something that makes a brand memorable. (Critics would say the term he's looking for is "gimmick.") As blogger Eran Globen noted, Seth is not only great at selling himself; he excels at selling the audience to themselves. Eran says:
Before presenting his ideas, Seth buys his audience's agreement: "The two giant marketing wins I want to outline; you know what they are but I wanna describe them." This simple statement - you already know what I'm about to tell you, it's not news to you, and so, of course, it's true.
Seth's bio feels much more like marketer-speak than Guy's, but it's still effective. Seth piles on his credentials. "Unleashing the Ideavirus is the most popular ebook ever written." "Purple Cow was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller." "He was recently chosen as one of 21 Speakers for the Next Century by Successful Meetings." It's not warm and fuzzy, but it's solid self-marketing.
Photo: Dave McClure
I compared this blog mogul (who sold the Weblogs, Inc. network to AOL for $25 mil) to Ari Gold, but I was too late — Jason already compared himself to the fierce fictional Hollywood agent and to his counterpart. Here's his pitch to Amanda Congdon after the vlogger left the show Rocketboom.
You're a star baby... it's time to be treated like one. Ask the other stars who work with me how I treat my talent and I think they'll all tell you that I fight and fight for my people like a rabid dog. (sort of like the Ari/E combo on Entourage, if you will).
Yes, he sounds ridiculous. Yes, he's so easy to parody. Quite wittily, too. And yes, he's so crazy and laughable, and yet so successful, that he's impossible to hate. (One of Jason's many "frenemies" is a former competitor: Valleywag's publisher and current editor, Nick Denton.) He's unabashed about everything; his life is a spectacle. And he knows how to get an idea out and drum up reactions. Now he's even posted rules for how to get a reaction from him — the man is training his fans to act like him. Guess it could be worse. We could be hearing from one of these:
The two failed self-culters
Two other bloggers have tried to market themselves: Robert Scoble and Steve Rubel. The former is...well...former. He used to be an evangelist for Microsoft. He used to be a top blogger. And he used to be relevant. Now he's just a dude who interviews Silicon Valley businesspeople for the PodTech video network. Sadly, he still feels entitled to attention, so he throws a fit when he feels ignored. The result: Robert Scoble is a pretty awful brand.
The brand of Steve is not too hot either. The PR exec wants to come across as a straight shooter — but when he recently insulted PC Magazine, he got smacked by his bosses at Edelman (whose clients would probably like to continue appearing in the magazine) and promptly, embarrassingly apologized. Rubel's attempts at branding — like his embarrassing Superman photo — just make him look like a goofball. Rubel is supposedly Edelman's foremost blog expert, so it's also embarrassing that they didn't consult him for the Wal-Marting Across America blog. The blog ends with an apologetic explanation that, oh yeah, Wal-Mart sponsored the whole thing.
Other than Seth, Guy, and Jason, successful self-branders include Jeff Jarvis, the creator of Entertainment Weekly with some old-media cred behind his new-media theories; Hugh MacLeod, the marketer who feels more like a commissioned artist; and Merlin Mann, the tech/productivity writer also known as That Phone Guy.