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Sep 11, 2006
Blog Post

September 11th -- A Marketer's Reflection

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

I woke up this beautiful fall morning with a feeling of heaviness. It's the fifth anniversary of September 11th.

September 11th was a Tuesday. That day I woke up psyched. MarketingSherpa had just won its first national editorial award, and we were going to announce the news via email to readers at noon.

In the meantime, I had a 9am meeting with Dan Miller, our Web designer back then, to choose typefaces for our site revamp. We decided to surf a few news sites -- USAToday,, -- to see what typefaces they used. I guess you know what we discovered instead.

MarketingSherpa was then headquartered at the top of the Adams Morgan area of Washington, DC. It's on a hill about a mile from the White House and surrounding government buildings. By 11am, when I had expected to be putting the final touches on our award announcement email, instead I was standing in the street outside our office.

Hundreds of government workers were silently, grimly, trudging up that hill toward me. They had been sent home for the day; most official buildings were closed. But the Metro was also shut down, so people were walking in their suits and dress shoes with their ID tags still around their necks, some for miles.

That noon instead of our planned issue, I emailed readers a note that our DC and NY staffers were all OK, but we would not be publishing that day. It felt wrong under the circumstances to even consider talking about marketing, let alone awards. More than two dozen readers emailed me back saying this was the right decision. Dozens more continued to email in through the week, with their impressions, stories, feelings about unfolding events.

I began to realize, for the first time really how much of a community MarketingSherpa and our readers had become.

This morning, I thought for a long time about the changes the past five years have brought to the marketing community, which were in part caused by 9/11.

The economy at the time of the attack had felt to many of us as if it were on the verge of recovery from the bubble burst. Business technology and online marketers had been the hardest hit, and the following months weren't easy.

Many of the Case Studies we researched and published over that next year listed as their 'Challenge' budget cutbacks and marketplace constraints due largely in part to 9/11. Online marketers focused heavily on search, affiliates and any CPA (cost per acquisition) media buys they could talk the by-then increasing desperate online publishers into.

Many online publishers who'd hung on through a year's recession already, switched business models to test paid subscriptions. And B-to-B marketers started a boom in webinars that has not yet abated.

On a personal note, many of us made life choices and changes, some of which were only possible due to the Internet. Peers and colleagues moved to Portugal, Colorado … you name it, in a search for a more balanced life. If you only have today, many of us thought, where do you want to have it?

Influenced by this idea, in 2002 we moved MarketingSherpa's headquarters to offices in a small town in Rhode Island. It was something I would have never dreamed of prior to 9/11.

I also never dreamed top-notch researchers and writers would move from more high-powered centers to join us here, and in part because they too sought a more balanced life in the post 9/11 world.

Five years on and the economy, while still a bit worrisome, has for the most part recovered. And the Internet's commercial viability has taken huge strides ahead -- at the time of 9/11 'dot-com' was almost a dirty word. Now it's one of the backbones of America.

But, are we better marketers? Today, while searching for the words for this column I watched news reports on television. And there, in the midst of thoughtful memorials, was a disturbingly violent ad for the film ‘The Black Dahlia.’

Just business as usual I guess. But that media buy should never have been made. Not during daytime television small children might be watching, and certainly not on 9/11.

So that's my message for today. Many of our lives and marketing tactics have improved as a result of the changes we made in reaction to 9/11. It was a horrible event, and I wish it had never happened. But, I'm proud of how the marketing community as a whole has grown and changed in reaction to it. Most marketers that is …

Note: Your thoughts, reflections, and stories are more than welcome on this blog.
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Comments about this Blog Entry

Sep 11, 2006 - Marc Michaud of Inc. says:
Seeing the attacks from my side of the border (Canada), my first reaction was that of deep sorrow for the loss of innocent lives. Productive people doing exactly what I was doing - making my life work. My feeling since then has been anger and resolve to ensure, through my business efforts, that the terrorists will never win. Winston Churchill said: Never, never, never give up!

Sep 11, 2006 - Michael Stelzner of WhitePaperSource says:
It was early in the morning and for some reason I turned on the little TV in our bedroom. My wife was 7 months pregnant with our first child. I remember looking at the little TV in disbelief. I woke my wife up, "Honey, there's been an explosion in New York!" The first tower had been struck and the second one was about to be hit. Later, as the south tower crumbled, I remember thinking that 50,000 people must have perished. I also remember praying. I vow to NEVER forget this event.

Sep 11, 2006 - Luke Erickson of [Withheld] says:
I would have to respectfully disagree. Coincidence, like correlation, does not equal causation. The changes that have occurred in online marketing are no different than any other societal changes that have occurred in the past five years -- including the impulse to blithely attribute them to a "flashbulb moment" in our collective experience. How folks reacted to 9/11 is also not unique, either, as anyone who was alive and can remember December 1941 will tell you.

Sep 11, 2006 - Kare Anderson of Say it Better Center, LLC says:
Anne, the ripples of your blog and your Marketing Sherpa reach quite far, as you know, even to those of us avid reader who are not in marketing. As a former NBC & Wall Street Journal reporter who now gives speeches on communication for a living I am continually inspired by your case studies. They have helped me grow my business and been fodder for my talks - yet today I had to write you to thank you for your comments on 9/11, then and now, including the Black D. ad - that I saw, too, and had the same negative reaction. Astute Rafat Ali & you (and your colleageus) have been so helpful in my preparation for launching a social network in early. thank you for your forward thinking and your generosity.

Sep 11, 2006 - Aimee of DigitalGrit says:
It's always important to be respectful of people's space (and inboxes) and it's particularly important today. Why not wait on that press release or email campaign? It just seems crass to induldge in promoting ourselves or our businesses on this dark day. Until it's officially a national day of remembrance, if we must work on 9/11, it's a great opportunity to catch up on those quieter projects. If you can't justify holding off in the name of good taste, bear in mind that your brilliant campaigns will be much better appreciated on the 12th or 13th.

Sep 11, 2006 - Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem of Marilyn Belleghem Consulting Inc. says:
I couldn't agree more with you Anne when you say that ad should never have been marketed in that spot. Unfortunatly all too often horribly violent ads for movies I would not want anyone to make let alone watch, flash before my eyes and those of my family in the midst of normal viewing. Children do wake up in the evening wanting a glass of water, an extra hug or reassurance from the noise of a TV and do in fact see things after what some would call normal bedtime. Is there such a thing as a spam like control for commercials that offend with language and violence? This type of ad will turn many viewers away from shows that could be educational and entertaining. What are they doing to people but desensitizing them to violencer and providing more ways to express anger. Freedom is one thing but some are abusive to viewers. Marilyn

Sep 12, 2006 - Christie Turner of n/a says:
Thanks so much for your thoughtful commentary on this day and what it has meant for marketers. I had a brother in law in midtown NY and worked in a downtown highrise in Dallas. It was a tough day, wondering what was happening to family members and friends, and what new tragedy was going to fly in our faces. We had a 9/11 related bomb threat at our building the next day, and I jogged down 29 flights of stairs for the first time in my life. It hurt a lot, but the adrenaline helped. My grandfather was an officer in WWII and Korea. My dad and all my uncles served in the Vietnam era. They lived through years full of days at ground zero. Very seldom do we appreciate what it costs to have what we have. (Let alone spending the time to mind what our politicians do with the power they ostensibly have from us)

Sep 12, 2006 - Rob Ralston of Skioto Ltd. says:
Nice reflections Anne. I spent 9/11 at work and home in Scotland beside an American, and felt the shock and pain more indirectly. Make sure you all stay free.

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