A friend is someone you know about, someone you can trust. A brand’s a bit like that. You meet this friend through advertising…. Without advertising, how would you recognize your friends?

International Association of Advertisers

My first reaction to the above was laughter, but wouldn’t it be amazing if it could be true!


Modern marketing follows, depends on, and tries to manipulate the unthinking whims of “the masses”. You don’t want your target to think. The majority of what’s being sold is not needed, so the more they think, the less likely they are to buy. This kind of marketing relies on short, snappy and uninformative content. The skill (and the fun) is in doing it in a way that doesn’t alert the conscious mind to the fact that there is nothing of substance there. An appeal to emotion addresses a part of us that has no language.

Any use of language to appeal to emotion is by definition a fallacy, yet people have been subjected to so much of it that most are now trained to accept it. Thus, all the common marketing strategies can succeed when they have a common product to sell. If you consider “good” synonymous with “successful”, then this is good marketing.

If you think of good in one of its other definitions—useful, advantageous, or beneficial in effect, then the strategies of the other “good” marketing shouldn’t be followed blindly. Some thought is required before launching a ‘traditional” marketing campaign. 

Here in the West, a lifestyle of unnecessary spending has been deliberately cultivated and nurtured in the public by big business. Companies in all kinds of industries have a huge stake in the public’s penchant to be frivolous with its spending, and in the documentary “The Corporation,” a marketing psychologist shows just how easy it is to increase sales by targeting nagging children, and the effect that nagging has on the parents’ spending.

“You can manipulate consumers into wanting, and therefore buying your products. It’s a game,” says Lucy Hughes, co-creator of “The Nag Factor.”

This is only one small example of something prevalent in our culture, that companies don’t make sales by promoting the virtues of their products, but by creating a culture of hundreds of millions of people that buy pointless stuff to chase away dissatisfaction. This is reminiscent of the analogy of culture as “hungry ghosts”; a culture of people who constantly want and need, but are never satisfied.

 – Andrew Barker: “How Culture Has Made Us “Hungry Ghosts” (page gone – pdf below)

In permaculture, we learn by casting off all our conventional ‘knowledge’ of the mainstream industrial agriculture and learn from the land and its communities of life directly. We can do the same thing with our marketing; strip things back to the base level and figure out a strategy that fits our product without regard for what others are doing to sell inferior products. We may well end up doing the same things, but at least, we will know why.


Good marketing could take a lesson from Bruce Lee:

Revealingly, it was hard to find a clip with the full quote of Bruce Lee, most cut it off right before “…it hits all by itself” – changing the meaning of what he said completely. “It hits all by itself” is my main reason for including this clip, but I left the rest in because it’s also extremely relevant.  Dishonourable shysters have made the timeless profession of marketing (bringing things to market and selling them) into a dishonest school of con-men and thieves. We don’t have to follow in their footsteps.

Following the path of those who are without honor will not lead to honor. Our marketing is aimed at those who understand our product, and at educating those who are ignorant of its benefits. Unlike the pushers of many products in today’s market, we need not fear the truth. This is a function of the design of the system we’re selling. Because the purpose is exactly what it says it is, there’s no hidden agenda.

If someone just wants to pay some money to relieve themselves of some kind of “guilt” or “concern”, but only wants to click a couple of buttons and be done with it; if someone doesn’t care much about the specific outcome or effect his money has—the consequences of his own doing—then Direct Sponsor is not really the product for them. Let’s not consider them in our marketing. It would be dishonourable to do so.

This isn’t just about money, it’s about building a network of and for people who want to help each other. People, not collective nouns like “the poor”. Clean water is a good cause, clean water in a village where a friend of mine lives and can tell me how it changed the life of the community for the better is a good effect

We don’t care about good causes, we are aiming for good effects.

If we find that our system is filtering out the people who don’t want to spend a few minutes actually communicating with the people their money is supposedly helping, surely that’s a good thing for the network? If a million people hand me 100 dollars each and are happy with an A4 Glossy brochure, you can be sure my priority will be the glossy brochure, and a high salary for the boredom of having to work in an org that produces such things. The people we ‘help” will become a product. I know this because I know I am not better than the people who already run such organisations.

How it grows and what it grows into is determined by the users. Our marketing determines the kind of network we get to use because it will determine who the first users are. The shape of the tree is largely determined by what happens in the first year.

 “Big” doesn’t matter. It would be nice, but a small crate of good beer is infinitely better than a huge barrel of vinegar. Well, it depends on what you want to use it for, which is my point. Do we want a slowly and carefully nurtured heirloom seed variety, or a bloated Monsanto monster full of pesticides?

The name “Direct Sponsor” says exactly and completely what it is. “Concern” does not. It merely refers to a troubling emotion with the implied promise to relieve you of it in exchange for money. We’re not selling a good cause, our concern is with our effect—with knowing exactly what our own effect is for this is the only way we can take responsibility for our own actions.  There is no “Direct Sponsor” organization, only the users. 

There is no “I”, it hits all by itself.


Mostly, what’s written about viral marketing is actually about simulating viral propagation via marketing, though the authors don’t necessarily realize that. If you have something that has the potential to become viral, you only need effort at the beginning, after that, it takes care of itself. A virus mutates to take advantage of a situation. After that, it just replicates itself until it needs to mutate again (well ok maybe they mutate for fun too). The originating virus is usually long gone when some of its offspring produce new mutations.

Spending money or time on “viral” marketing is like trying to make plants grow by pulling on them. Nurture the roots and put them in the light; they’ll grow by themselves. Viral marketing is a contradiction. Only mad people like Monsanto and biological warfare specialists try to direct viruses. What we really want is self-propagation of awareness of our product. That requires good design, not marketing. If you rely on marketing it’s too late. Marketing is propagation by you, only a virus can do viral propagation. Make a virus, forget the marketing. 

Actually a virus propagates by hi-jacking the propagation abilities of another organism and sometimes killing it in the process. It’s not such a good metaphor. I think they mean “spreads all on its own” (hits all by itself!), which is what good ideas do naturally in a healthy community.

Content Marketing

Perhaps the closest marketing model to our specific needs is Content Marketing. There are differences, but in essence, there are more similarities. If we use a model at all on which to base our strategies, or to find ideas, this would be a good one to learn about.  When we add in the businesses which will be necessary to fund the expansion and development of the network, we may find even more similarities.

Some relevant ideas

“Kopf schlägt Kapital” by Prof. Dr. Günter Faltin. “Brain Beats Capital. (thanks to Sven for the translation!)

The most important aspect of establishing a business is the elaboration of the idea. 

Let your idea mature by persistently circling the same problem again and again and do it in a manner and sustainability that seems almost bizarre to “normal” people.

The simple and ingenious idea comes at the end of a thinking process usually, not at the beginning. The word “implementation” trivializes the issue, casts fog on the actual questions and answers and acts like as the most important tasks have already been solved and the only thing that is left to do is just another easy step, that is the “implementation”.

Unique selling proposition: Fiddle about your entrepreneurial design until you have worked out a considerable advantage in the market. That means: It must be clearly recognizable and your customers have to be able to perceive and judge it.

The more fancy the idea is the bigger chances are that it gets noticed in the public. Weirdness is a plus in marketing.

The marketing evolves with the development of the concept. Don’t just put it on top in the end.

Rick Falkvinge’s Swarm is worth looking into in this context -archived below as pdf]