Lizzie Borden Took an Ax

Lizzie Borden took an ax
and gave her Mother forty whacks.
And when she saw what she had done
she gave her Father forty-one.

Offer the name Lizzie Borden to the average person, and the odds are that those who recognize the name will immediately connect it to “ax murderer.”

But, 114 years ago today, Lizzie Borden was actually acquitted of the murder of her father and step-mother in court. The case has never officially been solved.

Lizzie Borden was a respectable, church-going, Sunday school-teaching spinster. A daughter of a wealthy family, living in a prestigious neighborhood, with her perfectly respectable family. Few people of the day thought that such a woman could possibly be capable of such a violent murder.

The media, and much of public opinion, was on her side during the trial, even though she was ostracized by her neighbors after the acquittal.

But in the end, it’s the little sensational ditty that remains in our memory. Not the true story. The fiction is more glamorous, more sensational, and infinitely more memorable. There’s a marketing lesson in there somewhere.
It’s comforting to think that today, with our forensics and cynical attitudes, that the guilty party in this case would have certainly faced punishment. But perhaps not. The Borden’s, and by extension Lizzie, were at the top of a social tribe of their day. We still live in a world of tribes, and those connected to the leadership of each of those tribes is more likely to get a free pass than those on the outskirts of the same tribe.

A friend of mine recently pointed out a case that illustrates this in the Free Presbyterian church in Canada. A married Sunday school teacher who was a family relation of the church leader had an affair with a 13 year old girl from the church. Although, when it was revealed, the man was charged criminally, his punishment within the church was that he was stripped of his leadership position in the church, but was later fully forgiven. The girl and her family were kicked out of the church, cruelly labeled an “adulteress”, and has never been granted even a portion of forgiveness or compassion. That is the difference between those near the leadership of a tribe, and those at the bottom.

The same tribal structure appears in the world of Internet marketing as well. I’ve seen a few new players fall to the tribal punishment over the past year or so, as they rush to make a name for themselves by revealing a shoddy product or unscrupulous promotion by one of the marketers at or near the top of the tribal structure. Everybody knows, I believe, that these top marketers spew trash. But to say such publicly is to invite scorn. Most of those who have tried this have been banished from the best marketing forums, and blackballed by potential JV partners.

The world is full of such tribes. And each person in the world belongs to a variety of these tribes, and are at different levels in each.

If you can identify the tribes in your life, pay obeisance to those at the top when it counts (even though it grates), and understand the reactions of the tribe to praise or criticisms of the various levels of tribal leadership, you can be far more successful in life – and marketing – than if you plunge headlong into activities without that awareness.

This is, perhaps, a weird post for this blog. But I’m relaxing, thinking, and really not doing much in the way of marketing these days, so I can stand back and watch rather than participate, in the tribal activities. It would really make an interesting sociological study should someone ever decide to make an academic study of the online tribe called Internet Marketing.


  1. Donna says:

    Interesting way to look at the controlling factors in the mix of finding your place in the online world. It has been many years since I did any marketing but that was back in the early 70s and I knew I was just completing assignments for the advertising classes required for my degree in journalism. The potential today is so much greater for building a network that spreads your business all over the world that the actions you recommend make a lot of sense. In one of the exercises for the internship, blog reading is the subject James Brausch addresses as an important way into a site. He recommends thinking of commenting on a blog as visiting someone’s home and learning their rules before before intruding with your comments. My need for this is to learn more keywords for searching to become more familiar with the people online who may be doing exactly what I am trying to learn. Thanks for the insight.

  2. the apple says:

    this whole thing is so stupid they shouldve cut her head off

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