WHAT CAN A VIRAL EMAIL TEACH US ABOUT “MEMARKETING”

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Vice President, Strategic Marketing & Insights

A surgeon’s mass-email to participants of a networking event went viral this week after he asked the participants to set him up with his future wife in exchange for cash or Botox. That might sound like a nice offer, until the surgeon outlines his extremely precise specifications for his future soul-mate.

So what lessons can an embarrassing email teach us marketing folk? The email, argues Marc Ensign, is just one of the worst examples of “meMarketing,” a trend that is unfortunately proliferating among digital marketers.”

Let’s start with the email. A surgeon, who remains nameless, attended a networking event and began handing out cards. “The only words he shared with me that night were ‘here’s my card,'” Ensign recalls. The next day, Ensign received a mass email to all of the event’s participants encouraging them to find his future soul mate. Depending on the success of the date(s), and the candidates adherence to a set of strict guidelines, referrers were entitled to cash, Botox, and even Lasek eye surgery (only one eye though, don’t get too excited).

What were some of these guidelines?

  • Graduate degree or very good undergraduate school (more compatible since I went to 3 Ivy League schools i.e. Dartmouth, Columbia & Harvard, as well as Emory and my MBA from NYU)
  • Spent significant time (>1 yr) living in a city of 1 million or more (so can live in NYC if moves here)
  • Attractive (like an 8 out of the 1-10 scale, 9-10 is actually bad as it comes with a lot of downside)
  • Skinny (i.e. dress size 0-2, if you don’t know what that means (many men don’t) it means very skinny)

Okay, sure, crazy people exist out there. But what does this have to do with marketing?

Everything.

As Ensign points out, this is “meMarketing” par excellence. For ensign it’s

 When you approach marketing from the perspective of:

  1. Here’s how great I am
  2. Here’s what you can do for me

Unfortunately, the behavior of this tragic surgeon is encouraged every day on and offline. As individuals become their own brands with dedicated websites, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages, this chorus of “me me me” is growing stronger and stronger. That’s not to say professionals shouldn’t have these things. But like all good things, it’s best in moderation.

Marketers should view it this way, if you were able to translate your campaign into the real world, would it sound like this intrepid surgeon? Is your social media presence less useful and interesting and more “click on my links! share my statuses!” In the real world, this would be equivalent to handing your friend a stack of promotional materials, asking them to read it, and then share it to everyone. There’s nothing very human, or compelling, about that.

Ensign’s solution is simple, start conversations. In a world where consumers are bombarded with advertisements and links, building connections with your consumers makes all the difference. So instead of your marketing strategy consisting of a monologue centered around “me,” marketers would be wise to start a dialogue with their audience.

Read Marc Ensign’s original post, and the surgeon’s email, here.