The very first affiliate program that I started was for my own online business. This was in late 1999, and affiliate marketing was already around. PC Flowers & Gifts, commonly acknowledged as the world’s first affiliate program, was launched ten years prior.

Yet, the late 90s (and early 00s) was an era of affiliate marketing’s Wild West with “gamesmanship and fraud” with cookie stuffing and other harmful techniques all over the place. Many struggled with building profitable affiliate marketing programs. Some succeeded, others failed.

With time my small online shop’s affiliate program started bringing close to 70% of our overall sales volume. I started getting awards for managing an affiliate program well, and shortly thereafter requests to manage other businesses’ affiliate programs also followed. So, I started thinking of a name for my affiliate marketing agency. This was already late 2005.

In 2006 the new affiliate management agency, AM Navigator, was officially incorporated, and since then our homepage‘s opening paragraph has remained practically the same (as WayBack Machine confirms):

When sailing in the vast ocean of affiliate marketing, images of the infamous Titanic come to mind. We are here to help your ship safely sail such dark and murky waters and to put your mind at ease.

Not too long ago, a colleague, whom I greatly respect, reached out to me suggesting that it may be time for us to modify the commonplace analogy and the dated story.

Coincidentally (or not), right around the same time, a book by Dr. Peter Attia caught my attention, and shortly after beginning to read it, I was confirmed in the thinking that with “Navigator” in the agency’s name, I have neither a reason nor a necessity to change anything in the opening description.

The chronology of Titanic’s sinking is both well-documented and well-popularized. But it is the sequence of events that preceded the ship’s hitting of the iceberg that’s crucial to recall now. Here’s how Attia describes it in his book:

At 9:30 p.m. on the fatal night, the massive steamship received an urgent message from another vessel that it was headed into an icefield. The message was ignored. More than an hour later, another ship telegraphed a warning of icebergs in the ship’s path. The Titanic’s wireless operator, busy trying to communicate with Newfoundland over crowded airwaves, replied (via Morse code): “Keep out; shut up!”

There were other problems. The ship was traveling at too fast a speed for a foggy night with poor visibility. The water was unusually calm, giving the crew a false sense of security. And although there was a set of binoculars on board, they were locked away and no one had a key, meaning the ship’s lookout was relying on his naked eyes alone. Forty-five minutes after that last radio call, the lookout spotted the fatal iceberg just five hundred yards ahead. Everyone knows how that ended.

Then, Attia makes a parallel between effective preventive medicine and the tools that Titanic could’ve benefited from: radar and sonar which were not developed until more than fifteen years later, “or better yet, GPS and satellite imaging.”

Reading the above-quoted lines, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between effective preventive medicine and successful affiliate program management. Even though, in affiliate marketing, we are not thinking of the same time horizon (as preventive medicine’s 10-30 years), it’s for the exact same reasons that skilled affiliate managers are needed: to be the navigators that steer merchants through the ice fields and the underwater reefs, doing so based on experience, advanced tools, and expertise.

I still believe that Titanic’s story gives us a perfect picture of what can happen to an affiliate program without a skilled affiliate manager at the helm. You can select the best affiliate network (your ship’s engine), build a beautiful affiliate program (your vessel) but without an expert affiliate program manager, you risk either not getting too far (like Vasa’s proverbial voyage of 1,300-meters) or following Titanic’s tragic example.

AM Navigator is here to help, and you can expect to hear back from me personally.

Categorized in: