What is Information Jamming?

Culture Jamming meets Growth Hacking as a new marketing tactic

(Writer’s update: I wrote this in early 2014. If you notice, both Brexit and Donald Trump are using/used much of these tactics in their campaigns. This is why we need a free press and journalists to dissect truths/non-truths. There’s nothing elitist about doing such fact checking! — Geoffrey)

INFORMATION JAMMING is the new buzz marketing in 2014. The marketing term for 2013 (even though it existed long before this period) was “Growth Hacking.” The intersection of marketing and engineering, it was utilized by many start-ups to gain audience share. However, due to the crowded landscape of start-up and digital ventures, the marketing term for 2014 will be “Information Jamming.” But what is it? Information Jamming is a riff on the terms “Culture Jamming” and “Radio Jamming.” Most government authorities in totalitarian states use the term “jamming” to describe the deliberate use of radio noise or signals in an attempt to disrupt communications. This is to prevent the public at large from digesting information or content perceived to be controversial. These methodologies, although controversial by government regimes, will now be utilized and become commonplace by marketers moving forward in this new year. A “punk rock” subversion as a result of the current digital landscape where “anyone can publish, voice an opinion, make noise with a creative idea” ala “play a guitar and form a band.” A basic example of this in its infant state was the real time marketing that occurred in 2013 with Oreo who took a real life situation (the blackout at the Superbowl) and drew attention to themselves around this occurrence (honestly, ask yourself: what does a blackout have to do with eating Oreo cookies? Nothing, but they made you think about them due to the context).

In 2014 many start ups or larger disruptive brands (those trying to gain market share or keep their name above the fold by disrupting before being disrupted) will actually move toward using messaging that will interrupt or “jam” the audience into thinking deeply about what they are experiencing. They will be required to ask if it’s real, a hoax or a means to distract? As a result, the brand will draw attention unto their name and achieve awareness. Stunts like this will become ever more active as more and more companies use “shock value” to draw in an audience of new users or retain current customers. A variety of tactics will be utilized: video made to look authentic but not known by the viewer if it is real (citation: fake twerk fire video), lo-fi am/fm/uhf transmissions (pirate radio or television), 1-800 numbers requiring you to report to a check point to receive a clue (an expansion of the ARG trend from several years ago), video wall broadcasting, calling the fire department on your own party (to take advantage of people tweeting in real time about it), Michael Bay flubbing on stage in front of a livestreaming audience (was that real or planned we now ask ourselves?) announcements about future state technology to grab the newscycle (Amazon and drones), open source content (remix this please) released to the general public only to then sue those who used the content (a fake lawsuit of course to draw more attention), micro video broadcasting. The main theme of all of this is it tries to interrupt or “jam” the audience with a message that makes them question: was that real, fake, authentic, a hoax or simply a PR stunt?

In the attempt to figure out what we are being told, the population will consume the message regardless of the controversial delivery method. The goal will be accomplished of having one’s message heard above the noise. Governments have been good at this for decades using propaganda or mixed messaging to keep their message above the fray. This is anti-MBA marketing practice to the hilt which will cause chaos amongst many larger firms not used to the “level” playing field that now exists as a result of earned media. Non-agile brands still thinking the 60 second spot is the medium will have a hard time attracting a large majority of the younger population who feels disenfranchised and are tired of companies trying to simply, “sell us stuff.” There are just too many companies now that are trying to covet new users and gain publicity. Disruption is the norm. Brands that “jam” this year will win share of voice and possibly adoption due to the changes in the “science of social sharing.” People ultimately enjoy sharing controversial information that provokes debate or tips others to, “have you seen this?” We’re humans after all. We like a good story or one that makes us guess if it’s real or not. As seen by the best “jammers,” a sarcastic tone is passed amongst the population at lightning speed and people absolutely love to shine light and share controversy. As seen in late 2013 and early 2014, jamming is already occuring at a rapid rate, “Goldieblox vs. Beastie Boys” or “Jeff Bezos and Amazon Drones,” “Michael Bay at CES,” and “The Richard Sherman Incident” (Ed. Update as of 2.10.14: Dumb Starbucks Coffee Shop) and has no sign of letting up. “Information Jamming” might not be pretty but it gets you noticed. Ultimately, isn’t that what marketing in its simplest form is about?