Respect or Attention? Take Your Pick

09/20/2007 | 72 Comments

Remember Rodney Dangerfield? He was the great nightclub comedian who can’t get no respect.

Dangerfield built a persona and a lucrative career on self-putdowns about his looks, his weight, his wife, his sex-life, his career you name it:Rodney.jpg

My mother had morning sickness after I was born

I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio

With my dog I get no respect. He keeps barking at the front door. He doesn’t want to go out. He wants me to leave!

Dangerfield made it funny and profitable to get no respect. And what he didn’t receive in respect, he earned in our attention and our laughter.

He was lucky.

Many writers and artists display great talents and earn critical acclaim (respect) from their peers, but little in the way of global attention or income. They dedicate their lives to the arts while foregoing the attention necessary to make them rich and famous.

Not a bad path, if you choose to take it. But is that really what you want from your online business?

Does your business command respect? And if so, is the respect it receives paying off in attention? Or are you running a Rodney Dangerfield business that gets no respect at all?

Is your business, like so much artwork, created solely for you and your benefit, but not for capturing the attention, respect and sales of a wide audience?

Of course, I ask these questions within the framework of our discussions about the Attention Age.

We tend to give attention to those who have our respect: Teachers, world leaders, famous athletes and Hollywood celebrities just to name a few. They all have our attention and many hold it because we respect who they are or what they represent sometimes both.

For every Princess Diana, Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey there are countless other people who excel in their particular fields, but who receive far less attention. Some even have less respect because they haven’t achieved the heights of stardom as some of their counterparts.

Is this fair? No. But who ever said business or life was supposed to be fair?

When it comes to building a business, especially an Internet-based business, earning respect and earning attention are vastly different things.

Think about how much attention we pay to goofy YouTube videos.

More than 100 million YouTube videos are viewed each day by nearly 72 million individual visitors each month.

We may not respect what people are doing in these videos, but if they are outrageous and humorous enough, they earn our attention.

The attention paid to YouTube certainly caught the attention of Google.  The search engine giant acquired YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion in stock.

That’s a number that will certainly earn some respect and attention.

The success of YouTube was based purely on marketing and attention.

The viral nature of the videos and the social networking aspect of the community interaction became an explosive combination that was hard to ignore.

Sometimes marketing makes all the difference between obscurity and in-your-face success. How are you marketing your business for greater respect or attention?

Don’t Tase Me, Bro!

YouTube captured our attention early and often and still hasn’t let go.

Just this week Andrew Meyer, a University of Florida student, gained attention during a speaking event with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. After pressing Kerry on the topic of the war in Iraq and badgering the senator on other issues, Meyer was asked to quiet down. He refused and was forced to the ground by campus security and hit with a taser.

During the scuffle Meyer uttered an infamous phrase “Don’t tase me, bro!” which was seen and heard on videotape splashed on YouTube and all over the Internet.

Within 24 hours, several versions of “taser” were among the top viral videos on YouTube and other social media sites. The student’s phrase Don’t tase me, bro! appeared almost instantly on T-shirts and other online merchandise. Maybe Meyers didn’t earn our respect, but he sure got our attention. And savvy Internet marketers were able to pounce on the opportunity to cash in on the incident because they were ready.

YouTube has grown from a place to upload “frat boy” gag videos to becoming a co-host for U.S. presidential primary debates. Along the way, we’ve come to respect YouTube as a major media force in the Attention Age. It’s a Web 2.0 success story that has paid off “big time” for its creators and continues to pay off for its fans.

Respect for YouTube came after the attention. But that’s not always the case.

There is our infamous attention hog, Paris Hilton. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who respects her, yet she holds the attention of a celebrity-driven media and society. We’re still not sure why

So how does all of this apply to your online business? I’ll let you decide by considering this question.

In the absence of having both, would you rather have respect or attention?

I encourage you to give the question serious thought and share your comments with my blog readers. Respect and attention are not mutually exclusive, but if given the choice, which one would you prefer for yourself and your business?

As you think about that, I’ll leave you with another joke from Rodney Dangerfield, who died in 2004.

“My fan club broke up. The guy died.”

Who knows, with more respect and greater attention, that “fan club” may still be alive

So what would you do if 100,000 prospects turned their attention to your online business today?

Would they still respect you in the morning?

Better yet, could you convince them to become your customers?