Remember last year’s SXSW conference, where homeless people were given jobs carrying around mobile 4G hotspots? No? I’ll remind you about it, and also that my position then, as now, is that it was a win/win/win situation.

Austin TX's homeless, SXSW, and Mobile 4G Internet Access

A few people who needed it had higher-than-typical incomes for a few days, a service was provided, and some Influency and marketing hay got made. As I pointed out last year, the choice of wording “I am a 4G Hotspot” instead of “I have a 4G Hotspot” might have been slightly non-politically-correct, but honestly? That’s the most important thing on anyone’s mind? Ever?

Turns out, by the way, that the “stunt” actually did some good.

According to this report from ABC News, eleven of the thirteen homeless people who were Hotspots not only have homes now, but can trace their standing as non-homeless people to the money they made as mobile Hotspots at SXSW 2012.

Pretty evil, this marketing game, don’t you think? I’m pretty sure this guy would be happy to leave the ranks of the very regular people who just happen to be homeless and looking for Internet.

Let me be clear that there’s a line, somewhere, that marketing shouldn’t cross, and let me also be clear that I don’t believe I’m the arbiter of just where that line lies. But neither is anyone else. At the end of the day, much of this marketing stuff is about perspective, perception, and reality.

Or as we business types are so found of saying, usually to make ourselves feel better after we do something that we’re afraid someone else will see as questionable, it’s not personal, it’s just business.

Well, of course it’s personal. And it’s business. And that’s maybe a little more true on the marketing side of things than anywhere. What strikes home for me might look stupid, or even offensive to you.

When we drafted this guy to talk about Answer Guy Influency and Integrated Marketing Services, some of our own people thought we were missing the mark. The Big Lebowski is an obscure reference, if one that makes sense; The Dude Abides is the kind of phrase that can mean almost anything when you apply your personal filter to it. And . . . dude . . . seriously . . . ?

If all’s fair in love and war, certainly a pretty wide swath of things is fair in business and marketing. Your job is to navigate what those things are and find new ways to approach them.

That’s how you create Influency*. And this is how you reach me to talk about it.

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