September 11, 2006
Blog Entry

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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