April 22, 2005

Character Blogs

Steve Rubel says that character blogs are a complete waste of time.

A character blog is a giant missed opportunity to have real humans – whether they be employees, customers, or even distillers and bottlers - engaging in a real dialogue with consumers. I am all for using characters in TV commercials and even micro-sites, but having them blog is just a lame, lazy idea. In fact, it's an insult to blogging and bloggers everywhere.

Rubel wants to encourage companies to market with less patent insincerity -- to encourage them to put a more authentic, human face on their advertising.

Rubel doesn't really object to characters: his beef is with badly drawn characters. Captain Morgan, the rum mascot, was a silly blog character. He's not especially interesting in himself, he doesn't relate to the product, he doesn't improve the brand or build the relationship. But his problems is not that he's a character; Captain Morgan's problem is that he isn't enough of a character.

Want the voice of a ship's captain to explain your product? How about Dirty Shirt George Price -- a captain John McPhee talks about. (There were, it seems, two George Price's who captained freighters in the same time, and they became generally known as Clean Shirt George Price and Dirty Shirt George Price). He's a character. So is Paul McHenry Washburn, captain of the Stella Lykes on which McPhee sails. Yes, they're real, but their realness doesn't matter to us. They're interesting.

I'd be interested in reading Jack Aubrey's blog, anytime. Or Richard Henry Dana's . Or how about Samuel Eliot Morison's ?

The point is to communicate. If you can communicate best with a voice that is more or less your everyday voice, then that's the right choice. If you'd do better by borrowing another voice, that's called good writing.

We really need to get past the notion that bloggers can, or should, speak only in their 'authentic' voice. This insistence makes blog pundits sound like people who don't get out enough -- like people who missed the last generation of fiction, film, and theory.