Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Seeking Out "Blue Star" Brands

The hottest stars in the universe are blue stars.

When thinking about the Web 2.0 trend, and the boatload of new companies spawning in the Internet ether, I constantly find myself wondering, "Which of these newbie companies will be the next leaders? Who will burn the hottest? What is the 'blue star' brand of tomorrow? Will they come from Silicon Valley (again), or will the Web's 'worldwide' powers finally allow innovation to happen all over the place?"

It's an important question, especially for PR agencies. The phone keeps ringing in the Sales Department, and it behooves us to NOT make the same mistakes we all made back in '98-'99.

Maybe we should take more time to vet the management team, to do a credit check, to check-up on the funding, to test-out the product, to ask for a little more proof? Maybe. Maybe this time around we'll trust our guts a little more, when they tell us, "Do you really think that this is for real?"

Perfect example: I had the dubious distinction of handling PR for a company called Surfbuzz. It was founded by two young guys (like, 18 and 21), and the initial funding came from the younger brother's daytrader winnings. There was no revenue model. I can't even remember the details; maybe I blocked it all out. Surfbuzz had some kick-ass PR for a while, I remember that. But the company ultimately became known as among the most egregious examples of Bubble Era excess and foolishness (or, as Wired put it: Surfbuzz was, "The auction site that embodied dot-com avarice.")

The thing is, I knew it even as I was pitching it: this company had no reason for being. It was all about greed. The brothers were greedy for fame and fortune (and made no bones of it), and the agency I worked at at the time was greedy for every damn dollar it could squeeze out of the excesses of the day. And so were you, and your firm, right? Let's not kid ourselves.

Let's not kid ourselves, but, let's not make the same mistakes this time around.

'Cuz the thing about blue stars is, if they start to burn their fuel too rapidly: they go nova. That might sound like a good thing, but not when you're among the folks who get burned by the explosion.


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