There’s No Hill

billboard-pwn-kellyshibariRemember that game, “King of the Hill”? No, no, not the TV show. The game where the goal is to be, literally, the person who gets to the top of the hill first.

Here’s the Wikipedia definition of the game, for those unfamiliar with how it is played:

“…the object of which is to stay on top of a large hill or pile (or any other designated area) as the “King of the Hill”. Other players attempt to knock the current King off the pile and take their place, thus becoming the new King of the Hill.

The way the “king” can be removed from the hill depends largely on the rules determined by the players before the game starts. Ordinarily pushing is the most common way of removing the king from the hill, but there are significantly rougher variations where punching or kicking is allowed. As such, the game is often banned from schools.”

I often see versions of this game played in social situations as well as in corporate structures. In social circles, people can often try to discredit others in the hopes that they will become popular. We also see this in modern advertising, where one company claims to make a better product, a less expensive product, a safer product, etc.

I don’t remember having seen a lot of that when I was younger. A lot of the advertising concentrated on what was good about a company’s product, not what was bad about someone else’s.

The funny thing is (and I’m not sure if anyone else does this), when someone points out the faults of another, my immediate reaction is to go and research what it was about the other person or company that made the initiator feel threatened. Because you know something got their panties in a bunch. You hope that people don’t sit around in Company A’s advertising department and say, “OK. What company are we going to try to destroy or discredit today?” More than likely, some news got to Company A about some innovation, some widget, some thing that made Company B’s product more desired than what theirs was, and their goal was to try to top that.

It’s the same thing in social situations. When Girl A says something nasty about Girl B, usually Girl A is the one that ends up looking bad. Girl B may or may not have done something bad to begin with, but usually, the girl who makes the most noise just ends up looking like the tattle-tale, or worse, a petty, nosy, self-absorbed person that can’t let others be themselves. See how that works?

Here’s the thing. Comparison advertising can be an interesting experiment in social media if you let it. What tends to happen is a conversation amongst people about what’s good about Product A versus Product B. You’re going to get people who love Product A. Some people are going to love Product B. And others who haven’t made a decision to purchase are going to listen to both sides and hopefully make their own shopping decision. But unlike boob-tube watchers of pre-DVR, we’re not going to be lemmings to the edge of the cliff. We’re not going to say, “oh, so-and-so uses this, so I’m just going to go and buy it too”. Rather, we’re probably going to research and read a whole bunch of reviews to make sure that the one person we heard a review from isn’t a paid spokesperson. At least that’s how it works in my case. I’ve tried several exercises on Twitter just by asking a random question like, “What’s the best ___?” I usually get a nice handful of replies, and they’re not all the same. But by reading other users’ recommendations, suggestions, and conversations, I can make my own educated decision on what to use/purchase/try.

What wrong would it do if companies stopped trying to push each other off of the hill, and instead concentrated on how to make their own product the best available? What if companies stopped spending half of their time talking about another company’s product, sending THEM traffic, and making consumers want to do research on their competitors? The community can do the comparisons for you. Reviewers are going to do it anyway, and people are going to be commenting on social networking sites like Twitter. People are going to be blogging and posting about what’s good, what’s bad, what can be better, what’s unnecessary. Let us do the comparison marketing/advertising for you. It’s free!

In fact, lose the hill. There’s no hill — or at least pretend that there isn’t one. And stop pushing already. If schools ban it for the safety and wellbeing of kids…I’m sure we can elevate ourselves above acting like children.