When Faris Yakob describes how content produced by the media and PR needs to be “awesome”, I buy into it. I stand by his concept of “awesomeness”, not just because I am very fond of the man and the way he thinks, but because he has a very precise definition of the word, which I paraphrase here:
“Content & context that creates an inherent desire to consume & share – of importance because as Henry Jenkins puts it if it doesn’t spread it is dead these days”
But I am sick of “awesomeness”, because it has become a marketing buzz word. Fellow marketeers are no longer using it to describe a medium, that when viewed or interacted with, creates in the viewer an almost compulsive desire to share. No, instead, marketeers are describing pretty much anything they like as “awesome”, to convey that they are part of a digital club. Much in the way the incongruous wearing of the yellow smiley face in the 1980s indicated you were probably into acid, house music and raving.
The use of the word “awesome” as a marketing descriptor has gone so mainstream, so fast partly because of the stage Faris Yakob was quite rightly given at the 2011 Mashable Media Summit in NYC to talk about the Importance of Awesomeness and the impact he made. And partly because platforms like Twitter have been used to spread various articles about the concept of “awesomeness” in marketing so fast and so wide that marketers that don’t truly understand the concept have seen the word in front of their eyes so many times they mindlessly regurgitate it.
This wouldn’t make me feel so queasy, if those marketeers were using “awesome” as a general adjective, but that’s not the case, their usage of it when talking about media phenomena implies a certain science behind it. So next time a digital guru or such like leans across the table to you and says it is all about investing x, y, z with “awesomeness”, please say to them “Could you break that down for me?” Ask them exactly what they mean.
Awesomeness is, to my mind, a fully fledged theory in marketing, as Yakob outlined, not another way of saying something is ‘rad’ or ‘cool’. Now unfortunately, it seems to have suffered by laziness of usage. Much in the way something complicated like Marxism was used during the McCarthy’s witchhunt era in the US, become shorthand for Jewish, artistic or part of a Trade Union.
Once “awesomeness” as a marketing term had real meaning (and as described by Faris and some others it still does) – but more often it is referenced to create a blank numb mask of conformity in digital marketing chatter that everyone will nod along to, now inextricably linked for me to the digital echo-chamber.