For those who do not know, Ryan Holiday is the man behind marketing for American Apparel, and the media strategist behind people/brands like Tucker Max. He gave a Keynote at TNW conference in Europe 2013 about media manipulation. He should know. He wrote a book about it: Trust me, I’m lying
Ryan presents a small section of his journey as what can only be described as guerrilla marketing for the information age. He talks about some of his marketing campaigns for American Apparel and how they go picked by blogs and thus by the media. His whole point is to show how easy it is for crap to sell, and how the media and marketing world are in bed with each other, ultimately screwing over the consumer, which is you and me.
It is not just that Ryan uses some of the classic techniques of Guerrilla Marketing such as creating a controversy. Of course he goes above and beyond.
In the first part, he talks about how he gamed HARO – Help A Reporter Out. The scary part is the way HARO is sold to the general public and to the journalists. For the journalists, it is a place to find sources and for the general public, it is a marketing machine. Sell yourself to the journalists and get free publicity. That’s definitely not the highest journalistic standard you’d expect from publications such as the New York Times. Minimal fact-checking, if at all. Ryan just calls them out.
For the icing on the cake, he uses his own story about how he essentially made a fool of the print media and makes it go viral! Starting from a story in Forbes.com Ryan is able to gather a bunch of “respected” media outlets to pick his story up.
The scary part is how easy it is to manipulate the media and how these images and concepts are in your face all day long with the progress of the internet and information becoming a cheap commodity that everyone competes for eyeballs.
He even talked about how he leaked some images and got it published on blogs online. Many of the marketing strategies that he mentions seem outright unethical but they have proved immensely successful. I suppose the whole debate about them and his strategies is part of his bigger picture of advertising for his clients.
I don’t know how I feel about the whole talk now – it is probably just aimed at a completely different demographic who don’t know much about him and he wants to get his name and brand out there, waiting for blogs to pick it up. Oops! It’s brilliant nevertheless. A small con as part of a larger con.