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James Cherkoff

Here a few of the comments that have been left on the post from th main blog. I've moved it over to create a permanent home for the OSM debate.

From Bruce....

Interesting viewpoint, and a good read – thanks for posting and inviting me to view. Be prepared to see me refer to your writing in future articles of mine. The term Open Source Marketing seems to me to be a broader term to describe Viral Marketing, Permission marketing and Buzz Marketing that has been on the minds of many industry gurus for years.

I'd caution anyone to not jump to far ahead and claim that advertising will change as a result of this phenomenon. Open Source Marketing is a great tool but so is product placement and other vehicles that are now more viable since TV’s impact is lessening (far from dead however). I consider myself a member of the “Old School” and I maintain that we will get better and better at manipulating the on-line viral response, yet, it will remain only one element of a brand strategy.

I’ll bet VW spent hours in the boardroom deciding how to respond to the “fake” ads – but I promise you, they were thrilled that their brand efforts resulted in mimicry. VW is a strong brand: I’m not certain they made the right decision by renouncing it (I may have chosen to ignored it) but – who knows – their risk management group may have strongly suggested they come out against the ad. Also, by saying nothing VW would lose another PR opportunity [we wouldn’t be talking about it as much].

Open source marketing doesn’t happen by chance, it’s seeded by “Old School” advertising agencies and companies with “old fashion” marketing strategies. For more on my viewpoint I invite you to read: Thoughts on Internet Marketing:

- Bruce DeBoer

Posted by: Bruce DeBoer | February 3, 2005 02:48 PM

From Dave.....

How can a marketing concept be "very open source"? ... Never mind. I don't know if you think you're riding on the clue train, but it won't matter. You're still headed straight for hell. I encourage you to have someone read your post out loud, and just listen to it. Then listen to Bill Hicks: marketing is evil. Open source is about creating value collaboratively, not promoting some proprietary manufactured object with manipulative irrational appeals.

Posted by: Dave | February 7, 2005 05:54 PM

From Alex.....


I agree that traditional marketing techniques have and will continue to have a role to play in traditional marketing (generating broad awareness, lead gen, etc.)

But I disagree where you state:

"Open source marketing doesn’t happen by chance, it’s seeded by “Old School” advertising agencies and companies with “old fashion” marketing strategies."

What I've taken Open Souce Marketing to mean, distinct from agency-created Virals, or traditional agency marketing, is that it is community-created. It is the customers, fans, and users that create, distribute and evolve the content.

There 2 examples that sit bang in the middle of the OSM definition as I understand it ( ):

**Gizoogle (A Snoop Doggy Dog version of Google), See . Gizoogle is mimicry in the most literal sense. Google may be thrilled, but not because of a clever idea by an ad agency exec.


Windows Noises (See )

What makes these 2 examples OSM is that they are neither traditional marketing, nor seeded, nor nurtured by 'Old Shool' ad agencies, but created by the customers. No ad agencies were involved, non required. They didn't seed anything. And there are thousands of examples running around email boxes, blogs and RSS feeds.

Google's reputation emerged by word of mouse of the customers, to become one of the world's biggest and most used brands.

How much have Google spent on advertising? How much have VW spent? Who do you think is getting more bang for their buck?

Posted by: Alex Barnett | February 8, 2005 01:10 AM

From CEO Blogger....

Are you sure you're not describing anything other than the difference between PR and advertising?

For modern PR to be effective, it obviously needs to be aware of the new ways people communicate, but it's still just good old PR.

Posted by: CEO Blogger | February 8, 2005 02:31 PM

From Bruce....


I liked your examples. I think Polaroid did a campaign once that included end users in an innovative way as well. Can't remember clearly when or what though.

When I say iPod you have an impression of the brand; an essence. Apple and their agency created a brand image that is imbedded in our minds; it has mind share. That essence is perpetuated by those recruited to participate in the open source campaign. It is driven by the product performance but seeded by the integrated promotion efforts of Apple. It doesn’t happen by accident. Yes, end users are free to contribute as they wish to open campaigns, but the “hip” successful entry will mimic the brand essence seeded by the marketing. If it doesn’t, it will fall out of favor by the masses of end users who want to participate as well - it's a tribal society of sorts.

The great thing about this new channel is accountability. There are now consequences - both good and bad - for brand and marketing performance. For example, VW may not give a stamp of approval to all open source contributors but the brand message was accurate in the case of the suicide spot: the look and feel of the media, the message of quality, etc. It was pure VW – that’s why it worked. VW has been working on that messaging for years.

Brands are still created by consistency across all points of contact with the customer. Create a strong meaningful experience for the customer at those points of contact and they will want to participate in the experience more and more; they will become brand advocates. Open source may be collaborative but it’s not out of the companies control any more now than before. Viral, Buzz, Word of Mouth, Idea virus, Open source marketing, whatever you call it these days - it is created by points of contact with the brand that are still controlled - in most part - by the owner of the brand. No drastic change, just new innovative tools.


Posted by: Bruce DeBoer | February 10, 2005 04:49 PM

From Roger.....

you know you're on the right track when the economist is on side...see interesting article that asks if goods/services/etc other than software can be open sourced in a commercially beneficial way....

Posted by: roger | February 10, 2005 05:31 PM

From Bruce.....

Marketing = what's in the best interest of the customer. Sales = what's in the best interest of the company. Marketing = Pull. Sales = Push.
General descriptions but I think they work. It's good to have the vernacular down pat but how does it apply to Open Source? I don't see too much that is sales oriented in the Open Source examples that I've seen discussed.

I would love to participate in a discussion string that addresses how a
company can generate an open source campaign for it's brand. Ebay
developed a web space for others to play as does Amazon. It was deliberate and innovative.

A brand owner needs to harness this new tool and integrate it into their
overall marketing strategy.

James Cherkoff

Thanks for all the comments above, taken from the original blog post.

My feeling is that open source values are creating a different type of consumer, in the same way that television created a different type of consumer. I don't think Open Source is a mystery. It's just a description for the way that large communities are organising themselves.

And it's not an anarchic 'the end is nigh'statement. Things move on. Radio took over from print, TV took over from radio, open source takes over from TV. Just a progression.

It's of interest to brands in the same way that any large grouping of potential customers is of interest. The challenge is how to engage with this new group, knowing that the approach used in traditional advertising isn't going to do the job.

Clealry, brands are still going to be the face of a company. We are not talking about brand robbery! Open source marketing is about harnessing the massive amount of energy and interest in brands in a community environment. Yes, some of this will be negative. But much will be really, really positive. Massive opportunities exist for brands with the right approach.

I think this is the debate (as defined by Bruce above), how can a company actively go out and create and manage an open source marketing camapign....

Alex Barnett

Bruce, i agree with everything you say on your last post.

James, you ask: "I think this is the debate (as defined by Bruce above), how can a company actively go out and create and manage an open source marketing camapign...."

Look at Channel 9 as example,

Not really campaign, but sustainable and longer term, similar the examples of eBay and Amazon you gave above - 'a space to play'.

James Cherkoff

Hi Alex, I agree that Channel 9 is a great example of an open source campaign. A little ironic that MS has such a great example ? Or a good example of the new MS?

The Economist article about Robert Scoble has a great tale about the origins of C9.

This caught the attention of Lenn Pryor, who is—really—Microsoft's “director of platform evangelism”. Until then, says Mr Pryor, Microsoft had been evangelising mostly one-on-one, “which doesn't scale well”. But Mr Pryor had a radical idea. Afraid of flying, he had met a pilot at United Airlines who told him to tune into channel nine from his plane seat, where he could listen in on the communications of the pilots. Mr Pryor did, and soon “the irrational nature of my fear started to fade”. It had something to do with hearing real people talking honestly. He realised that Microsoft, the target of similarly irrational fears, should have its own version of channel nine, and that public blogging by insiders should be an important part of it.

Richard Reukema

Interesting debate, but all from the point of view from the brand! How can the brand harness this, how can the brand use that?

As a person that has studied loyalty marketing for the past 10 years, I agree with you that the trend of the future will be where the consumer takes control of the messages he recieves. I also agree, as you have given evidence to, that consumers will participate in a community that they feel good about (like the iPod).

What is missing however is why do consumer's have to congregate around a brand? Why can't a community of users simply exist because they all share similiar values, or share only one aspect of their personalities? In fact consumers already do, but consumers now need to take the next step, a step where they truely take control...

What I believe is next in "Open Source Marketing", is where the consumers pit the brands against each other for the consumers collective well being. Rather than the consumer congregate around a brand, the brands will attempt to congregate around the community.

There are many virtual communities, but I have yet to see a community leverage their commentment/involvement with each other, against one or more brands.

How many ScoblePhones do you think Scoble community would purchase? How many tablets do you think the Scoble community would purchase? (notice that I did not use the would sell, because it's worded from the consumers perspective) What would brand's do, offer, to sell their product to the community?

From the world of 1to1 Marketing (Martha Rogers/Don Peppers)...A 1to1 organization does not seek consumers for their products, but seeks products for their consumers....

We are going to witness a paradigm shift in marketing, and I can't wait to be a part of it.

Christopher Carfi

It's much bigger than just marketing. I think it's quite possible that we're seeing more data points that indicate a broader customer remix culture that is emerging.
(link: )

Marketing is perhaps the most noticable, as the output from marketing is typically "content" that can be altered by a customer in an "open source" manner. But customers are "remixing" everything:

- demos (a la SocialText)
- training (a la SafariU)
- support (there's a great story via the link above on how customers are helping each other in the aisles of the big-box hardware stores)

Even the products themselves are being remixed...think Firefox in the digital realm (thank you, Firefox extensions!), but even physical goods...think Monster Garage.

Every aspect of the whole product can and will be remixed if the customer has the motivation to do so.

Ian Laurie

I am a firm believer in OS theory being the next big thing in Marketing, in fact I believe that is has been for a few years now but has just recently been given its christening. Personally when I graduate soon I do not want to be in the marketing environment with an organisation dealing in stale old marketing theory, and then finding myself out-of-touch a few years down the line. I know it’s a bit arrogant to think I can choose my appointment, but the words that echo in my head when thinking about employment is that ‘if you enjoy your job you never have to work a day in your life’ anon.
OS with Tribal Marketing seems to me to be a very strong potential tool in marketing, who knows better what they want than the ‘fans’ of an offering, let them decide how, what, when and where they want the offering. All it takes is a willingness to release a bit of control and just use a ‘guiding’ touch.


Nuf Sauce, No Steak

A few weeks ago I attended your Open Sauce Live workshop. Somehow the idea of Open Source Marketing sounded promising. I expected to be confronted with inspiring examples and a strong fresh new idea. I should have known better. If it smells like meat and if it looks like meat, it’s probably marketing.

When did marketing take a wrong turn? Maybe it started to go downhill when someone suggested to replace the unique selling proposition by the unique spiritual proposition. From then on marketing focused on images, on stories, on branding. We started to sell the sizzle, and neglected the steak. A few decades later marketing seems to be all about the wrapper, not about the content.

Again and again the content is neglected. Viral marketing: a strong idea, but now it’s used to sell the same ol stuf with a new breed of campaigns. Buzz marketing: soon we’ll have disguised promo teams spreading rumours about detergents. Smart marketing: mostly smart campaigning for the same stupid stuf. So when you mentioned Whassup as an example of smart buzzing and viral marketing, you forgot to tell that its the same bland and boring beer.

I understand that we live in an entertainment economy. I observe that marketeers use pictures of cows to sells authenticity. Like I said: if it smells like meat and if it looks like meat, it’s probably marketing.
Just an image. Totally out of touch with reality. A lie. No wonder consumers don’t trust us anymore. No wonder marketing is more and more a marginal profession.

Nuf Sizzl, No Sausage

Your version of open source marketing seems to make the same mistake. Its all about campaign gimmicks. About wrappers, not content. You are selling blogs. Context, no content. That’s sad, because you reduce the open source approach to internet techniques to get the word out. You neglect that open source is based on sharing talents and capacities to develop new products, and make them widely avalaible at no or low price. You are taking the sizzle, while throwing away the steak.

It’s all the more sad, because there are examples of open source initiatives that could have a fundamental impact on marketing. Just look at history. Think of communities that built hospitals, parents that innovated schools, cooperative banks, housing societies and mutual funds. Imagine that those maybe somewhat tired business models would be rejuvenated by injecting new open source steroids.

FireFox Petrol

An example of open source marketing would be the Spread FireFox campaign, where lots of developers and users promote their open source browser. Now could you imagine a similar approach for computers, televisions, cars or even coffee machines? If Dell can do it, why can't we? Would you buy FireFox petrol, detergent or coffee? This may seem far-out, but why could a community of designers, developers and engineers not invent a better computer, tv, car or washing machine? Why would a number of potential buyers not pool together to have a prototype built? Why would an OEM not accept orders from a mutual marketing company representing?

This is not open science fiction; there are some inspiring examples in the real world. Consider the Lomographic Society [] for instance. Two students from Vienna that bought one camera from the Lomo factory in St Petersburg, now representing a global community of half a million users. Okay, that’s not real open source. But they do develop new products, they do outsource production together, they do set their own prices and they do direct their own distribution. That’s what marketing used to be about, all p’s involved. And Lomo might not be completely ‘open’, but why not see shared source marketing as a stepping stone toward open source marketing?

One last thought. Why did the cooperative movement never really challenge big corporations? Maybe because most cooperative business is based on common knowledge. Mutual interests might not be the strongest incentive to excell. But they can be a strong force against corporations that focus too much on shareholder value at the expense of other stakeholders. Coops might just be a temporary force, to correct market mistakes. I would like to see if open source software is sustainable.

James Cherkoff

Hi Toine,

Thanks for the comment. Sorry you didn't get what you wanted from the session but it sounds like you found it provocative at least.

As you pointed out at the time you seem to think the 'steak' is in the Product stage not the Promotional stage. Which I think is very valid point. (In fact it sounds like you are bit bored by anything promotional at all.)

Obviously in three hours we are a bit restricted as to what we can cover. Let's see what what others think about your feedback..


Two thoughts about open source:
do people actually have the "source code" of the brands they do their little homemade clips for? I don't think so. So what they do, can be on brand - or may be far off.

Which leads me to my other thought: isn't it dangerous for the longterm consistency of brands, if everyone can participate in brand image communications (as for converse, mercedes, etc.)? Because in real terms, it's a small minority that will shift the brand image away from what millions of other (passive but financially equally influential) users might want to have and see in that brand.

I agree, that brands need to rethink how they communicate and interact with their audience, but they can't just listen and act to the loudest and most active.

Gimmicks like the ones mentioned above (or in my blog) are nice and show that the brands want to engage their audience in their communication. But they will still need agencies or other partners to keep overal communications on brand.

Liam Mulhall

That's a good point thecod. There needs to be a certain level of control over how the public are involved. Not a limiting control, but within a defined range.
We built the first ever 'virtual beer online' (Blowfly Beer, Australia) using Open Source Markeing concepts (I worked for Red Hat Linux for a few years and I saw the ideallogy would work in tangible goods, not just software)
It has since become a 'real live beer company' when we left the development of the product and the strategy of the company in the hands of the public, by giving them controlled choices in things like name, label, bottle type, sales outlets. They had 2 choices and majority ruled. A lot of the concepts James puts forward we learned by trial and error and he's pretty spot on - with no advertising or traditional marketing we've sold thousands and thousands of cartons of Blowfly beer ( have members in 25 countries and is exporting to Asia and within weeks to the US.
It’s good to see a global acceptance of what we commenced a few years back, and most of what we do now is helping other companies implement the same techniques.


Consider the power of Buzz Marketing. I do not necessarily like tying it into Open Source. I think that Buzz Marketing is the form of marketing that propelled Open Source to popularity.

Consider how Buzz Marketing can be harnessed for any organization. Buzzoodle is just one way this can happen.

Nice article.

Marketing sussex

Interesting subject


The term simply means that methodology used to create

Phil Morus

Thanks for an interesting read.

Pleased to add some comment since all previous entries are so dated. I wonder if anyone is still reading this site?

Today's 2009 consumers are heading towards a greater desire for value with less impact on the environment.

Open source will become the clear winner since it not only gives the customer what they want it has a value base which is biased to the user and delivers value to the creator in a non resource consuming form, pleasure, pride, notoriety etc.

Twitter, Facebook and Slide are all about users interacting to generate value on their own terms.

The old school is resorting to brain scans to determine what customers respond to but I reckon there is a whole new action and reaction minsdset building from open source which is adding an external, ie communal, layer to everyone's brain.

James Cherkoff

Thanks Phil, yes this was a paper I wrote a few years back and the conversation is from then. The trends are still relevant however I think...

Muhammad Arham

This is it. This is Islamic Marketing with different face. By looking at the principles of open source marketing, I know that the principles set by whoever it is closely related to Islamic Marketing.

I think people in general, including academician, who are interested to build the body of Islamic Marketing should pay closer attention to this.

I am looking forward to learn more concerning this open source marketing.

Richard Wyles

To me open source marketing can only really be aligned with open sourced products, software or otherwise. The marketing materials themsleves could be altered (perhaps using Creative Commons), perhaps requiring attribution but to create derivative works. naturally this would be most useful when they're creating derivative works of the product - to have editble or source files of the marketing materials available also. This is not that unusal. In our open source project we encourage the sharing of marketing source materials along with training materials. The rest of what you say is great but not really 'open source' marketing, it's just co-opting the term - mostly what you are espousing is more akin to social network marketing.


I was doing some research for a book I am currently writing on a new paradigm for marketing and came across this site and this discussion. Fabulous stuff. Thank you so much James for kicking off this debate.

James: I love all that you are saying and would only “tweak” the term “Open Source Marketing” to simply “Collaborative Marketing”, as you call your company, and which is also the foundation of all the marketing I do, both for my own company and for my clients. And by collaborative, I don’t just mean that we utilise the collaboration of others to marketing our products and services, but the very way we market is based upon the fundamental value that if it isn’t good for the world, it isn’t good for our businesses either.

Richard: I totally agree with your observation that consumers are already congregating around a shared value base, and I think all of us here would agree that it is the increasingly rich experience afforded to them via social media is what is allowing them to do so.

You say all they need to do now is to take the next step of taking control. Rather than using the word “control”, I prefer to say that we, as consumers, will be required to claim our values as well as our boundaries. Of course, we as a culture cannot do that until we become more aware of how “old school” marketing compromises our values and our wellbeing in many ways, some more subtle than others. And under that umbrella, I also include mass media in general, including all areas of journalism, because at its bare bones, “marketing” is the means by which we have traditionally “sold” not only products and services, but also belief systems.

And when you look at it that way, the rise of social media could not help but have a huge impact upon the face of marketing and business in general because we as a culture are no longer the isolated, passive addicts of a television culture, but an increasingly connected and vocal world-community comprised of an uncountable number of “tribes” of real people brought together common interests, common life challenges and/or common value systems.

Bruce: I have to say I disagree with your statement, “I'd caution anyone to not jump to [sic] far ahead and claim that advertising will change as a result of this phenomenon.” I recently saw a superb presentation by Michael Drew called “Pendulum” on TED TV that I believe demonstrates to power of this new “movement” called social media, and how it is impacting the world. You can see it on YouTube at

I think marketing is already changing—big time—and that it will be compelled to change for the simple reason that “Old School” marketing is making us ill as a society at so many levels (physically, emotionally, and even environmentally), and as a race, we humans already feel the need to make this change to save ourselves. Of course that claim warrants further explanation, but I won’t elaborate here (it’s actually at the core of that new book I’m writing). But of course both of us are speculating about the future based upon the perspective from which we now stand, so we’ll just have to watch this space and see what actually evolves.

Again, thanks for the great discussion and the content, James.

Lynn Serafinn

James Cherkoff

Thanks Lynn, this essay is a few years old now. I wrote a little update here a few weeks ago...

certified german translation

Open Source Marketing is a great tool but so is product placement and other vehicles that are now more viable since TV’s impact is lessening..It's popularity is increasing rapidly..

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