Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The the brand construction business

A bit of arm chair keynotes work and I think I have accurately managed to recreate one of the key ideas in the Cluetrain Manifesto.  It was a book recommendation that I got from Neil indirectly through his presentation on brand generosity which i think is really good.  

Well done to us in the brand building industry who have managed to build a big wall between the 'us' that sit inside companies and the 'us' that sits outside.  There's nothing wrong with walls - I have even helped build a real one once and it can be pretty satisfying.  Having said this some walls are an unnecessary division with some famous examples.  This type falls into the latter category. 

We also by default created the general rule book that goes with the notion in order to keep it safe and secure...

RULES FOR THE PEOPLE ON THE INSIDE

-Feel free to talk to the ones on the outside but stay to the pre-approved script 

-Its probably best if only one person speaks on behalf of the rest for all important conversations

-Better still and if they can afford it they should appoint another group of people who are excellently qualified to understand exactly what the ones on the outside want to hear and a great at coming up with one liners that sum this up

RULES FOR PEOPLE ON THE OUTSIDE

-Try not to speak to those on the inside as this is an expensive nuissance

-This applies for companies that you are on the outside of, for your own company see above

...The new type of brand services as ever will be in complete opposition to those of the present. Making connections between people inside and outside of companies - lets call it brand networking, in order to cut through the casted, constructed, homogenised and contrived face that the 'company' has been paying us for years to build.

(Before I forget, this is the perfect example of blurred line thinking.  To imagine what the world would be like if you removed the line between two worlds - Like how Einstein did with time and space.   Move the line between the two and you are left with spacetime.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Agency of the Future

Dug this out and dusted it off recently - Its a piece I wrote in January 08 about the new kind of marketing communications agency and at the time I must have been feeling pretty optimistic about the future.  Having said this a few things I have seen recently make me think it could be starting to look more realistic.  I'll have to think about what to wish for in 2009!

THE AGENCY OF THE FUTURE…

            The agency of the future should be geared up to deliver to the following…

-The future of client needs within the advertising and communications business
-Guidance in the future economy and the disruptive effect this will have on the way that client businesses make money
-The sustainable future of the planet

It will be set up as a sustainable carbon neutral enterprise which is indicative of a broader set of values based on the personal values of the people who work there. A sustainability ethos will breed a whole host of general benefits to the company such as a sense of personal engagement of staff, a sense of community, the positive client experience that this personal feel will achieve, a way to attract talent in the future, as well as first mover advantage in the battle to attract the clients of the future.  

It has two core services which are ‘double sided’ (which makes 4 in total.)

1a – Solutions planning
1b – Sustainable solutions planning

2a – Experimental new business models
2b – Sustainable experimental new business models

What is Solutions Planning? Why are their two sides?

The current marketing services model is not equipped to deal with the inevitable influx of new business opportunities that will emerge in the next 5+ years. The core output of most agencies is message based communication which is increasingly coming under threat.  

Current agency models are under threat because…
- advertising is becoming less effective
- Media is owned by consumers and therefore so is brand creation
- There are many more types of non advertising brand opportunities available
- There is a need for marketing output to have benefits in their own right in order for consumers to choose to use them – the rest ends up as expensive wallpaper.  

As this happens brands will need a whole host of new techniques that are not served by most existing agencies. These techniques will be the core offering of the new kind of agency. They will need to be more real, more human and more purposeful and will include…

-Brand innovation over advertising innovation
-Non-advertising end to end service solutions
-Participation marketing
-Collaborative and community based initiatives
-Brand networking (connecting companies with consumers, other brands, specialists, and partners versus creating an image that sits between these potential connections)

                At the same time it is predicted that sustainability will be bigger than the internet in its impact on business. Message based communication is even more ill-equipped to solve the problems created by the need for sustainable marketing ideas and initiatives

Current agency models are not equipped to deal with sustainability because…
- Messages can not have a green outcome… actions speak louder than words in this area!
- Sustainability can not be based on brand image
- It has to be driven by people and communities not brands and advertising

When you look at all of these more human and personal approaches that are needed for sustainable marketing you actually find that they are exactly the same things that any marketing company should be embracing in the future regardless of green issues.  In other words the expertise and understanding that is needed for sustainable marketing solutions is also the same as those that will be needed for all future brand solutions.  

              In the near future the two service options will be available to clients but beyond this it is expected that these will merge until ultimately all clients will only need sustainable solutions for their businesses.


What are experimental new business models? Why are their two sides?

The above describes the transition beyond the conventional advertising model and also into sustainable marketing that the new company will specialise in. However this is only one part of the offering of the new kind of agency.

Increasingly the role of the client marketing department will blur with the rest of the company in its remit. Instead of looking for communications opportunities it will increasingly be needed to look for business opportunities.

This is generally true because
- advertising is becoming less effective as a driver of business growth
- the new digitally driven world means a continual state of revolution
- greater collaboration between consumers and the business itself (not just the brand) will be needed

- With lower barriers to entry an experimental model is necessary which means trying things out in the real world.

Instead of an advertising agency businesses will need innovation agencies who can seek out, consult on, and introduce new business opportunities on a rolling basis. The exact services would need further development but they would include;


-Seeking/designing killer applications that could change the business model 
-Arranging brand and business partnerships in order to open up new markets
-Monetised communications solutions
-Idea generation and internal facilitation in order to devise new business models
- Trial and testing for new business ideas

Having said this the real disruption (and opportunity) that will face business and challenge the existing practices will be the prevention of climate change. Consumer pressure, government mandates, and market forces will mean that rapid and radical change will be necessarily.

- Companies will have to be nimble due to radical and quick changes
- Industrial production and consumption will become less viable forcing companies to shift towards more of a service model
- Most existing business models are inherently non-sustainable and so will not be able to compete with new sustainable models. Every company will need to be looking for these and fast!

             In the near future the need to be creative with the business and how it is profitable and not just in the communications will be important for companies.  However beyond this it is expected that every company will specifically need a spirit of constant innovation toward replacing inefficient or wasteful practices and ways of making money, with more sustainable and therefore profitable options.  The agency of the future should be a partner in achieving this.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Google Index 4.0

The sum total of the content that sits on the Internet is a lot of data.  But computers these days are pretty good at dealing with lots of data.  The secret to Googles success is to trawl through all of this data and then to create an index for it that means that any one who wants to find something can initiate a search of this index in order to find what they want.  

Google has two ways to improve the power of their index.  One would be to make it smarter.  More information, more meta tags, more intuition of my intentions based on my search terms.  

The other is to make the index bigger.  Indexing every place in the Internet is the current scope of business.  But Google earth and Google maps are no coincidence.  The ultimate goal has to be that every single piece of data that relates to anything and anyone is in the index.  In this version of the future everything can be reduced to piece of data and be made searchable.

Apparently the line in the business is that search is now running at 5% of its known potential.  If this is the case then you would assume that the search advertising business is also only firing on 5% of is potential as well.  If the entire world was able to behave like a Google link (i.e. by pointing some kind of mobile device at an object that you want to buy or find more information about,) then the only kind of advertising would be search advertising.  Ultimately every type of marketing will have to operate a Google style business model.  

This is 'blurred line thinking.'  To think about what the world of brand communication will look like when everything is search and search is everything.  This seems pretty inevitable.  The only question will be who is running the thing.  Will it be the non Google media players who adopt a Google like mentality or will it be truly a Google earth!?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Baz Luhrmann is clever

I have been writing recently about thought particles (and here / here).  The concept that ideas can be understood as a type of chemistry.  That a flow of thought particles can be exchanged and remixed between people into new and different forms.

We think we experience the world in absolutes i.e. we see things as they are and feel them as they are meant to feel.  The job of the film maker would therefore be to simply try and recreate the world as it really is in the most accurate way possible - do this and it really will feel like the past, or a different country or a relationship between two people.

What this forgets is that the only kind of reality is our own; it is unique to the individual.  I did not live that version of the past,  may never have been to that country nor experienced that kind of relationship. 

In other words simulating something as it seems to be might not be the best way to communicate how it actually is.

This is where thought particles come in.  For the creative person they are a toolkit of raw materials that can be fused and combined into any configuration they see fit, to transmit a meaningful experience.  It may not end up looking, sounding or feeling like it might have done in real life but could be a far stronger, more captivating, and then strangely somehow more real than pure imitation.

I think that Baz Luhrmann on some level works in this way to create things more compelling than reason would allow.  Instead of trying to copy a story from life he seems to play with the ingredients and mix them into forms that should not make sense.  

For example to understand the past you do not have to have it accurately recreated; this might not tell you anything.  Nirvana may be better for bringing to life the atmosphere of the 19th century than the music of the time itself.

Before I saw him interviewed I thought that his style could be simply a kooky way of seeing the world (similar to Russel Brand,) that looks strange to us because the cogs driving it are out of sync with those of the rest of us.  In other words creative flair.  Having seen him describe the process I now think that its more structured and rigorous and thought through than this.  A good argument for this would be the amount of time it takes to make a film (Australia has been 6 years in the making.)  He seems to be engineering the experience that he wants to create not like an artist but more like a chemist.  What if you wanted to strip down the individual 'particles' of your film from light, to colour, words, landscape, sound, etc... and then think of them only as components or raw materials, taking as little as possible for granted while doing it?  What if then you re-configured them meticulously into the unique personal experience that you wanted to gift to the audience? Then it would be little surprise that you might end up on the project for a pretty long time.  

 

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Don't be Evil


If you wanted a corporate philosophy and hired a consultant to help out you would have ended up with something a lot more styled and poised and balanced and wooley than the one that google came up with... don't be evil.  I listened to a podcast recently that said that corporate strategy is ruining the world i.e. it stops grounded logical human decisions being made.  'Don't be evil,' sounds more like something a person would say than a company and it feels naive and almost childish as a corporate strategy.  The smart business person would choose their path not on a general consensus about right and fair but on any path against any logic that was put forward that could be justified as the most profitable out of all of those available.  If it always worked out like this then you could hardly argue with it, but then Google don't seem to be doing so bad.  

What if the expedient corporate strategy route meant unimaginative confused employees, or partners that don't trust you, or inconsistencies with your offering, or worst of all customers that don't have any good reason to choose you or even have reasons not to.  Then that path looks fraught with problems.  Like so many other things Google was ahead of its time.  The anti-brand had the brand strategy of the future... make human kindness your big idea.  Google don't always get it right and they have had their fair share of criticism where the slogan gets played back to them with an accusing finger, but generally its easy to believe that they mean it.  Its pre-installed into their hardware. 

Monday, December 01, 2008

If you love them let them go

I was thinking that my most recent listen from audible.com was going to be a bit of a bore - the history of search.  Actually its quite riveting stuff.  Its easy to forget that the Internet revolution came from almost nowhere to almost everywhere in just a few short years.  One of the most interesting and captivating things to my mind is that so much of it was so concentrated in its creation in Silicon valley and more specifically the channels that lead there from Stanford University.

One of the most interesting insights that the search engine pioneers realised was that success comes to those who can send people where they want to go.  Now search is such an essential part of life this does not seem like rocket science.  Actually though it is counter intuitive.  Yahoo and Aol were obsessed at the same time as google was starting to get traction with keeping people in the portal - stickiness was the buzz word.  The search service that was offered by these portals was not seen as a source of strategic advantage but more than this it was seen as as a bit of nuisance.  The better your search the more people would leave your environment to go somewhere else where other people could make money out their presence.  This was of course before the ad words business model had been invented.

Until then nobody saw the strategic advantage of navigation, they just wanted you to go to  their pitch and never leave if possible.  This seems like ancient history now that search is all conquering.  Having said this there is an argument to say that beyond silicon valley very few other people have caught on.  I you think of your average brand websites they could be likened to suburban houses on the cul-de-sacs of the Internet.  Dead ends that might be a little bit pleasant but ultimately represent the narrowing of opportunity and the end of a journey.  I can imagine a meeting where some digital brand manager suggested that their brand could become a route to anything good online in the field that they opperate in.  I can also imagine the case being shot down by the argument that the big Portals used just a few years ago while search was changing the world.

Like so many things it seems like the exact opposite of the way we do things in marketing might be needed.  Brand destinations are actually launch pads.  The consumer journey should run straight through them to a whole other world of opportunity.  Pull this off and the right to be the gateway to the sector awaits.  The old adage could be true... if you love them let them go!

   

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Consumer Centric Companies

When you hear about a corporate giant, I at least, have fixed expectations that they would be polished, slick and feel staged and quaffered.  I am obviously not a true child of the internet age.  For example if someone showed you google afresh and told you that it was (potentially) the worlds most important and influential company your first reaction might be 'i could have art directed this site.'  

I had the very same reaction today when i went to look at Craigs List for the first time.  It looks kind of like a place that you end up when you take a wrong turn.   In a recent podcast that i listened to the potential for the capitalisation of Craigs List and the exploitation of its vast resource of consumer data was being discussed.  The response from the company was that they only ever do things that their consumers ask them to do.  And their consumers never asked them to exploit their data to sell them stuff and so it would never occur to them to try it.  

The same podcast explained how many people from the world of business get frustrated by the 'non-strategic' behaviour of Craigs List to not milk as much profit out of the market as it can, as quickly as it can.

On a separate note I was watching a film recently about the nature of the corporation and how it evolved to win the right to operate on the same level as a person - i.e. when you enter into a contract with a corporation it is pretty much legislated for in the same way as if you are entering it with a person.

The film saw this as a bad thing which it may well be.  But if you saw the relationship between Craigs List and its audience as the relationship between two people then it would not seem so strange that they would not want to go off and sell the online behaviour of its partner to the highest bidder in order to allow 3rd parties to serve them unwanted messages.  In fact it would seem pretty odd to see that as a reasonable option.

Only ever do things that your consumers would vote for if asked.  That seems like a constitutional principal

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The second age of discovery

I am currently reading a book about search, something that's so ever present that you never give its impact or meaning any second thought.  Its actually pretty new to our lives even though it doesn't seem like it.  To give it your undivided attention for a decent period of time makes you realise how more profound its role in our lives could be, past our current level dependency.

We have created this brave new digital world that even we do not understand and it is growing by the second.  It is also starting to merge with the physical world we have charted and will start to augment and modify it in ways that we don't yet appreciate.  The key to the navigation of this new world is about the most important single thing there is as far as I can work out.  And despite all this we only really have one universal entry point which is the search engine.  

As I was thinking about this it struck me that we are perhaps entering into a new age of Discovery.  The first age of Discovery was based on lots of men in sailing boats searching and navigating their way through uncharted waters to discover new lands.  Once this task was pretty much completed we turned our attentions to the deep sea and outer-space.  But now I am starting to think that the next age of discovery will play out in the digital world.

Similar to the first discovery age its pioneers are skilled explorers who populate new environments, test new tools and find new applications for the (digital) materials that surround them.  Maybe its a relative or subjective POV but it seems to me like now is particularly relevant, as though new frontiers have only recently opened up.  

This could be the point at which social media and content media merged together.  Before this you are either connecting with other people which is a social function rather than an act of discovery, or you are finding things for your own use which is a discovery but does not establish anything or leave anything behind in its wake.  For example there is no point in discovering America if you can't tell anyone.  

Once these two things are fused together then you have the ability to both find new unexplored territories while at the same time plant your flag in order to usher in immigrant populations from anywhere else on the net.  

A great blog  (which this is not,) is one with a skilled explorer which is less about spouting off opinions (which this one is,) and is more a navigator to the brave new world of the internet.

PS the picture is not a real Time front cover its just me being dramatic.

 

Working it out


All of the presentations, all of the debate and case studies and the point can be explained by this one little piece of ambient media.

If you want to talk to me about a product that is going to make me fit and give me a workout then the point is elevated by something that gives me little workout.  The message is mute - its the experience that expresses the meaning...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Remix Culture

"There are no original ideas - culture is either a blending or distilling process,"  could be a pretty good summary of one of the main ideas of this blog.  The last three or four posts put this in an atomic/scientific context and so 'combining or splitting,' would be a better way to say it set against this logic.

A nice example...

These graphics look very contemporary; digital but also Illustrative like Japanese retro computer art.

Whereas in their original context they look like small town marketing of 20 years ago.  Remixed into a different format and used in a different context culture can be remade from the raw materials of what is already there.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wordle

The last post as a Wordle - a site that allows you to represent a passage of text visually.  Now you don't have to read it to see that it talks about 'digital' a lot.  Thanks Dan

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Digital Thoughts

Lots of people have been talking recently about the idea that the real world and digital world are starting to become more blurred - I called it the 'environet' which is obviously a similar blurred line between the words environment and internet which as the spell checker on my computer has kindly elected to draw attention to by putting a red line below it, it could be an idea.  

My last two posts were about thought particles - the construction process of the mind and therefore everything in human culture. This one however is about Digital thinking. Not thinking about digital stuff - that thinking is itself digital. This is perhaps the biggest idea in the book 'thought particles' which inspired the last two posts.  This is the idea that experience is felt, touched, seen and in any way sensed in a digital way. This means that the way we internalize anything in the world is by translating it into binary code so that it can then be integrated into conscious understanding and ultimatley reformulated into new ideas. For example when we look at an object we are absorbing information such as form, size, colour, sound, space, smell etc. not as it really is, but as we perceive it. In order to do this every one of these variables is reduced into binary code. Though this is only a theory it kind of makes sense intuitively. You don’t see the colour blue as it really is you only see a reading of it which is a construct based on your experience of blue in the past, the processes in your eye, the things around the object etc... etc... All of this varied information needs to be combined in our heads. How could this be possible if they were not reduced down to something as simple as a series of yes' and no’s, A’s and B’s or 1’s and 0’s? 

So if our perception is itself digital then the invention of digital technology looks different - it looks a lot more like us. 

If this... 1101010111010101010101010000111101010101 was your perception of a piece of information, and this... 10101010111110001101101101110101010 was what sat behind the computer screen where you absorbed it, then surely you could cut and paste the two like this... 110101011101010101010101000011110101010110101010111110001101101101110101010, pretty easily in principle. One day we might not need to split them via two different interfaces. 

Matrix stuff!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thought Chemisty in action

When I was young one of my parents favourite shows was LA law. The theme tune was pretty memorable and was composed by a bloke who is apparently the maestro of TV and film scores. According to the book from the last post he had a methodical approach to how they are constructed. In the case of LA LAW the alto saxophone represented that the show was meant to be racy. The french horn was meant to be related to the formality of the legal profession and the heavy backbeat was meant to evoke the intensity and imposing backdrop of LA. In other words it was a formula constructed to carry meaning between the writer and the audience. When we assess any kind of creative output i suppose its this that we are trying to decode i.e. what did the artist want to say with this painting or alternatively what evidence has he unwittingly poured into the picture about his state of mind that we can interpret now that the moment has been fixed in time. Maybe these two scenarios represent the difference between strategy and creativity. One seeks to construct things based on an understanding of the formula and the other gets to the answer more subconsciously or intuitively without every trying to deconstruct the process. Both approaches whether formulaic or organic represent two potential routes to the same end point. In other words could it be that the difference between strategy and creativity is not the output or the function its just the mindset used to find the answer. I never much understood the splitting of the two functions in many types of company - maybe this is why.  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thought Chemistry

This book confirms something that i have been thinking about for a while.  That thoughts and ideas must be made of someting that can be deconstructed in no less than a scientific way.  What science teaches you is that nothing comes from nothing.  Energy is never lost, equations always balance, atoms move into different states but don't actually go anywhere.  If you apply this to ideas then you start to see them in a different way.  What if in order to generate an idea you need to absorb thought particles through your everyday experiences and reshape them into something new based on the ones that you already have.  We all know that the best ideas people fill thier lives with stimulus.  

If any of this is right then what it means is that there must be a general theory of relativity for cultural production that explains how any kind of human development is possible.

Thats one for a rainly day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Incomplete things

I've been trying to think of an idea or theme that hangs off the principle that there is an inbuilt incompleteness or randomness to lots of different processes, if only to prove the thinking behind the last post.  

So here goes...

If you think about it deliberate mistakes are what allows life to develop.  If everything was created perfectly then a new or different kind of perfect would be impossible.  Mutations are a good thing to help adaptaton.  

Or think back to chemistry lessons and you will remember that its the atoms that have an extra electron or one missing that are most happy to react and be transformed into something new.

Its not unreasonalbe to expect that culture might work in the same way.  A perfectly rounded story like a fairy tale is far less likely to create a new thought than something more unresolved like a mysterious painting.   

Someone on TV the other day said 'the media abhors a vacuum,' to justify the idea that if there is no useful leads on a big story then the press will naturally end up filling the void with conjecture and hearsay.  I expect that our minds work like this as well.  If something comes with room for interpretation or completion or a bit missing then the natural reation must surely be to close the loop and fuse this open ended structure with the Lego of other thoughts and ideas already there.  This also seems to ring true with modern teaching methods that do not teach facts and absolutes but processes and themes that have more of an evolutionary capability.

In other words development comes more easily when things are not fully ressolved which is why if you were designing a system you would leave a few pieces missing before passing it on to the next person.   

More blurred line thinking...

Integration is something that planner types love to talk about and I’m probably one of the worst. Having said that its one of those ideas that can seem to rule the world when applied in big blurred lines to more interesting things than communications.

For example researchers of the brain and how it produces conscious experience have started to think of it as a process that comes about from the integration of all of the major areas and the connection between them. I think of it like one of those transparent jelly fish where there is a constant flow of circulating pulsating lights – as long as the flow keeps going between all parts of the structure then consciousness keeps getting produced.

If integration processes are fundamental to our orientation to time and space then it is probably a good way to understand lots of things.

Sunday I was running but trying harder than this to keep up with the In Our time podcast hosted by Melvin Bragg. It was about how mathematics had had to step back from its quest to know everything in absolute terms via a movement to create a set of immovable laws. The realization was that even in pretty simple sets of numbers there were paradoxes that could not be resolved.

If I am honest I don’t really know that much about what they were on about but I do know that the implication was that Maths had to make do with an incomplete understandings of things.

Later I went to see the new Cohen Brothers film. Like most of their films I came out not knowing that well how much I liked it as so many of the traditional rules and reference points about stories were missing. I had to make do with an incomplete understanding. But then in this case I think it was the point. The film portrayed people from different strands of society seemingly bouncing off each other in incoherent and chaotic ways as if there couldn’t really be design for the way that any of it worked out.

In between these two chaotic sources of words and pictures that were swirling around together in my head I listened to Evan Davies' podcast which was about the psychology of the money market as part of the diagnosis of its current dysfunctional behavior. My understanding was again incomplete and I stopped listening in places but I think I get the main argument that the random factors inherent in the market system allow us to know little more than it will go one way or the other – in the long term the rest is chance.

So today the world seemed to be telling me in different ways that there is in everything an un-accountable element that can’t be weaned out of even simple numbers.  Three incomplete experiences that each in their own way conveyed the fundamental incomplete nature of things. They had each been separate and out there until now when they were all fed in to one integrating process in my head. I am pretty sure that no-one else had all of these in all of the same contexts and even if they did they would definitely have been different to the sum total of every other experience that had gone in before.

Therein is the potential for a new original thought to be re-circulated back into the process. The integration and blurring of experiences is the construction process of new ideas.

Not that I have any yet but I’m working on it : )

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Arguments against the Long tail



The long tail observation is based on the idea that well organised distribution of content is no-longer necessary… that content is king and that the consumer is king of content. Following this logic any content can and will be made available for any consumer at any time; the smallest niche of demand will be personally served and everyone will put together their own channels and playlists that are as unique to them as their fingerprint.

This feels very much like the future and pretty liberating as well; endless choice of endless content. Having said this it is easy to forget or ignore the downside of this. The best example I can think of is the BBC in the UK which is TV equally funded by a licence fee for everyone who owns one. Australian friends of mine find this hilariously antiquated – like a TV was a dangerous weapon such as a handgun that needs to be controlled. What this means is that the BBC does not have the remit to make a much money as possible and instead has the one to serve the public interest.

Stephen Fry makes this argument 1000 times better than I every could but it boils down to the idea that a diverse society needs collective broadcasting entities to integrate us, care about our cultural experience and germinate and grow us into content that we would not alternatively have found our way to.

The alternative is a world where people exist only within their small niche which the content market will serve as cheaply as it possibly can.

I am sold that the market will not always nourish the right content for the greater interest of everybody and would not change the BBC. I wonder how many other markets would work better with this or some other model.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Idea generation technique 1

In a recent workshop that i was in about running workshops we discussed three universal types of sources for generating ideas.  The trouble is I can't remember the other two.  And the one I can remember is the least practical for anything that has a strong structure to it.  

Idea generation technique... Random.  The principle of which is to force an idea out of any set of random things until something sticks.

Why does it work?  I'm no expert but I expect if you follow a normal path you would end up with 100 ideas that all sit within a very similar part of the spectrum.  With the scatter gun approach you could end up with a 100 that forcibly fit within every different shade of the rainbow.  Some will be blindingly ugly but at least you will have created range.

Limitations - Works better with less structured projects.  Requires faith and attracts ridicule.

Example - To find an idea for a blog post follow this link and scroll down until you find a photo that makes you want to write a one (this is what i did for the previous post.) 

P.S. this was the first image that caught my eye on the above link even though its a bit random : )

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Designed to sell

Something that tries to do one thing but that actually causes the opposite effect should not really happen that often you think about it.  Its ironic... literally.  It s a bit of a balls up to have to explain to someone that the measures that you introduced didn't have the desired effect.  Nor did they have any other kind of positive effect.  In fact the only effect they had was the exact and total mirror image of what you set out to achieve.  Its does not make for a good story.

In simple terms why does this happen?  You could put it down to trying to hard.  If you really want something to happen then chasing that alone would actually preoccupy you from spending time and effort on the things that were most likely to be productive towards that goal.  

A good example would be that it takes men at least until they are 25 and possibly later to realise that getting really drunk is not necessary the best way to attract women.

You can draw the same parallel in art.  The harder you try to create a commercial success the less chance you have of creating a master piece.  Most of the worlds greatest and most valuable art first changed hands for a pittance.  

To some extent the same is true of marketing and business.  The more directly that you try and  chase sales the more this goal becomes difficult to attain.  The most successful companies are often the ones that are led by a bigger strategic or personal vision rather than by following the market blindly in the pursuit of immediate sales success.  But this is a difficult position to uphold in a meeting where you have to convince people that you need to take on a big new cost or turn down a big new contract not because you know that this will work best in the long run, but that you think it just might.  If you own the company you can do it; or if you are given the same kind of freedom.  However most kinds of corporate entities don't work like that.

The only answer that i can put forward to encourage the kind of bravery and counter intuitive thinking is a strategy that is so well ingrained and articulated that it would be unthinkable to shift off course just by a little.  Every company needs to know its purpose or reason for being with as much conviction as any personal vision that an individual might have.  Once you have this you would need to stick to it even until the point that it seems to be leading you in the wrong direction.  If the company purpose or reason for being is a good enough one then this logic says it should come good in the end.

 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Status Anxiety


I have read/heard a lot recently about status anxiety without actually getting around to the book of the same name.  To my understanding this can be summarised as the innate unhappiness and insecurity that goes with the pursuit of modern notions of success symbolised in things like a big car, or a big impressive sounding job title.  Maybe its a coincidence or I'm noticing it more but one article or book on the subject seems to lead to the next.  This ranges from recent best sellers like 'Affluenza,' back into the history the human mind like Fromm and Jung.  

I think it was on Faris' blog that it was discussed that the point of communication is to make people a little happier than they were before.  This is also not so far from the ideas in 'The Experience Economy' that say that we have now gone beyond commodities, goods and services to a point where smart companies create differentiation by creating scintillating theatrical experiences out of the shops, staff and other components that make up their business.  But as symptoms such as status anxiety would suggest happiness is not as boundless as capitalism. If you buy into the research presented in 'Affluenza' you see that the more westernised and the more commercialised the country the more likely it is that the people who live there will live a life disconnected from a real authentic joy of life.  Markets like China are emotionally on the crest of a wave on a promise of the riches of capitalism but are just a few points on the curve away from the US or the UK towards this trend.  In other words its not working.  The saying goes that if it ain't broke then don't fix it and anyone with a different POV about the best way to organise a way of life would struggle (even harder) to get any traction whatsoever for a different approach if this was not true.  

So while we are suffering a slow decline in our mental health and well being, and the financial markets that underpin it are suffering a more chaotic form of madness perhaps it is time for some calm reflection.  One approach to treating physiological problems is to treat the illness as a malfunction or an alien intrusion that needs to be forcefully removed in order to restore health.  Perhaps a more enlightened way to look at it is to see the behaviour as a useful alarm bell that reveal clues about how to redress the more fundamental problem that lies underneath.  

There is currently a growing commitment from many different types of business to change the way they do things in order to make them more sustainable in the future.  But i can't help but think that the starting point should not be exactly the same product aimed at the same person for the same reason, but now made with magical new techniques that mean that the process is not harmful.  If you were starting from scratch you would not end up there. Instead you would start with some more basic question like... what can we make/do/produce that will make people the most happy which, if all this thinking is right, would lead to entirely different outcomes.  Cracking what these are would be the next industrial revolution (by a different name.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

involvement everything


Participation marketing for me is not a tactic that you can employ well... tactically, it can be used to answer any brief.  If it was only half the answer or less then a bigger model of understanding would be needed to explain where why and how it fits into a larger thought system (or so says blurred lines thinking.)  So if this is the case the only way to test it is to demonstrate its value in the places where it does not naturally seem to fit...

These would include;
-Basic utilities 'I don't want to participate with toilet paper I just want to you know what'
-fashion marketing 'don't complicate it just get a strong image out there.'
-Functional communications ' I don't need to engage will a sale sign I just need to see its there.'
-Awareness is my issue 'I need big bold brand ads not small niche experiences'
-Sales is my issue 'I don't need participation I need sales driving media'

I will try and answer these one by one.  If I fail to find good examples or arguments to prove the point then I will be forced to admit that participation is just one slice and should think about a model to explain the whole pie.  

For me the first one is easy.  The prospect of trying to force someone to liston to you interrupt their lives with messages about something that is not given even the smallest plot of brain real estate such as the basic products that you buy everyday is weak and dwindling.  For me involvement is your only defence.  In the same way that they say that everyone has a book in them I would also say that somewhere inside they would believe themselves able to find the perfect Walkers flavour.  Its not crisp advertising its, co-creation, debate, competition, the home culinary revolution, and a community all rolled into one.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Work of art, art of work



If one day I found myself retired and sat on a pile of money generated from one fruitful venture or another I have already decided that I would invest in commercial art projects.  Following on from the blurred lines theme it seems to me that one additional step past coupling a wine bar / organic cafe with an art gallery is for a business venture and an art project to be more intrinsically wedded.  Of course there are already plenty of businesses set up based on creative foundations, creative products and of course advertising but the companies themselves are not in themselves and art form.  What would be the credentials of a business that was set up as a work of art; over to wikipedia.

Work of art...  

A creation... that has been made in order to be a thing of beauty in itself.'

Wouldn't that be a reason to get up when the alarm goes off first time around, to stay calm and friendly in the office, to play nice?

Sustainability thinking says that environmental impact should become a further bottom line by which a company judges everything they do.  Somewhere in the multi verse there must be dimension in which 'being a thing of beauty,' sits on the bottom line as well.  The first management meeting to try and work out the best way to deliver on this new objective would be a funny place to be.  

I know its a bit out there but Steve Jobs puts a lot of the success of  apple down to his appreciation of the art of calligraphy!

Anyway my idea would be to offer money to art projects that are conceived with the notion of aiming to break even.  If a brand can be seen as a utility or a service then why not a work of art as well.  If you really want to engage the viewer then give them something they can inhabit or use.  the Haywood gallery which is currently full of building shaped installations i.e. where art and architecture meet, must cross this trajectory of thinking somewhere down the line.  And on the other hand you could have prototyped a new business model or brand that strategic thought would have been too logical to find.  I'm no artist myself but look out for some example posts on 'artco' (I cant stop making up words at the moment) projects.

Monday, August 04, 2008

More Blurred lines thinking... The ENVIRONET



Maybe its my age but I can still see the internet in a non-abstract way i.e. a very big network of computers. It is the world through the screen, distinct from everyday life in three dimensions. Blurred line thinking would try to find better insights by looking at a subject (no matter how vast it is in itself i.e the internet) and taking a step back to see its natural or potential evolution into a bigger system - to imagine what would happen if where you now see two worlds you instead saw one.

Of course this is happening already and there are lots of examples where you can note the blurring of the line between the internet and every day life.
San Francisco going all WIFI
Alternative reality gaming
GPS enabled training products
RFID technology
Smart codes

... are just the ones that spring to my mind easily and so this is not about identifying a trend. I’ll have a stab at giving it a name though... the ENVIRONET could be a good way to describe the ubiquitous internet; the ambient, everywhere inter and outer-net blended into one.

Blurred line thinking is about the ability to use the insights you get when looking from a different vantage point; or at the very least to help you to throw some interesting problems into the mix if you are not feeling up to solving them all there and then.

-In the world of the environet you would not need an online and an offline agency, nor would you draw a line between digital departments and any other department.

- The concept of brand destinations versus communications no-longer makes sense, everything is both.

-The only currency of communications will be interactive experiences

-Everything we do in the real world like going to bars or bargin shopping or barbques will need a google or a facebook or a something else to make it digitally enabled.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blurred Lines Examples


Enterprise thinking.
Sustainable business development necessarily takes the view that all of the broader systems in which they operate must be brought within the management construct. The basic rationale is that it makes no odds if your business is sustainable if it exists within a system that is not. You would still be on course for an iceberg which is perhaps the wrong metaphor. But conversely this new holistic approach allows bigger and better perspectives. Customers and clients become partners and stakeholders that can lead to more productive relationships e.g collaborative projects where products can be developed and brought to market in new ways. Blurred lines between the company, the consumer, the client, the supplier and the environment multiplies the benefits for all stakeholders.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Blurred lines thinking...



...was set up as an organizing thought for this blog but I can’t remember ever explaining it. Blurred lines thinking is the idea that the best way to try and understand the way that something works or why it is this or that, is by applying the principle that it is in some way part of a bigger picture or framework that ties it to the rest of everything. In other words like an artist who is trying to resolve one small area of a painting, clarity can come by stepping backwards and then backwards again.   Each time bigger and more general systems can be viewed in an increasingly coherent image. In blurred lines thinking the individual brush strokes can always blur into a bigger image no matter what sphere of life, science or culture you are studying.

The father of blurred lines thinking has to be Einstein. The foresight that allows you to link things as remote as (E)nery and (M)ass as part of one silky fabric seems easier to imagine if you start from the point of view that everything on some level is part of the same stuff. Then the possibility of space and time being connected might lead more easily to an understanding of ‘spacetime.’

Zoom in a few thousand levels closer to the surface of things and its also the reason why marketing services jobs can benefit from an interest in all things that relate to the human condition. Plus its also a thousand times more interesting that way. So have a problem about brand relationships then read about relativity; on one level they have to be well... related.

Examples to follow...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

'The easy way to stop being an ego driven, all consuming sap on the environment'


Selfridges has lots of good ideas, even to the point that they can turn the big brash sale signs that they use into an art-form. Fashion loves irony because it creates exclusivity i.e. are you in on it or are you one of the uncool people who don’t get it. In this case its the quasi-religious nature of shopping in modern life that is being sent up.

To the the greater extent its just smart humour but it must say something about the condition itself that it does not stop people in their tracks. I was there over the weekend and like everyone else I was not questioning why I was there or what I really needed. And like everyone else I was a little caught up in how much money was there to be ‘saved.’

The double irony is that looking around the signs are pretty close to the truth. To be held in the grasp of wanting more stuff is the natural disposition that keeps the economy burning. And its hard to image what will replace it in the future though replaced, modified and reshaped it surely will need to be. I am starting to see it like smoking.

-Short term chemical compulsions i.e. adrenalin, the buzz, the instant gratification,
This acts like a nicotine deficiency and regularly wants to be topped up.

-Coupled and blurred with an array of longer term mental addictions which keep ticking over in the background i.e. I will look better and be more successful if i buy this.
This is not unlike the smokers phycology that tells them they need to smoke to have a good time or to enjoy a meal.

I gave up smoking using Alan Carrs book ‘The Easy way to Give up Smoking,’ that takes the opposite approach of most methods. It does this by ignoring the reasons why you should not smoke which everybody knows anyway, and isolating, explaining and ultimately revoking the reasons why you do. I am probably in the top quarter of people who actively learn about and try to change their behavior in order to live more sustainably yet frequently succumb to fast fashion. In other words I fully understand why sustainable lifestyles are necessary but this does not always translate into actions. Perhaps the other side of the coin i.e. isolating the reasons why you feel compelled to spend a Sunday in Selfridges would be more powerful. After all smokers know they are killing themselves quite imminently and directly but it fails to stop them. When I have worked it out ‘the easy way to stop being an ego driven, all consuming sap on the environment,’ is the book I would want to write to explain the process.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Counter intuitive thinking and a $1000 incentive to quit the company


It is not very often that you hear the company where a person works described in a really enthusiastic and positive light. This could be part of the national cynicism of the British but I’m sure its pretty universal. Its one of the few bastions of a sense of community feeling to be able to share in the berating of the place where you work on a par with things like reality TV contestants.

So what if your company started to offer you incentives to leave. If you really meant all of the moans you'd take them up in a shot. Otherwise you would have to start to admit that actually you have got it pretty good and on balance its where you want to be.

Zappos, which for people outside the US is the Amazon of shoes, offers all new recruits $1000 to leave after they have completed their initial training (from an interview on the HBR ideaCast.) And as the company has been growing so has the amount offered to quit. The result being that the people who stay do so after interrogating and renewing their conviction, and the one’s that don’t have the desire or the energy leave the company with its full blessing and something to tide them over while they think about their next move. It makes perfect sense knowing that one of the big problems with big companies is the lower concentrations of motivated and passionate people than in small companies.  However I had to hear the explanation before I fully agreed and understood. Therein is the problem because anything that needs explanation to sound sensible is always going to struggle in the modern company where ideas have to survive based on only the partial attention of all the people necessary to carry and execute them.

It’s a far harder sell to get people to implement the opposite of what seems to make sense rather than the obvious. Even less so in consumer facing decisions such as brand communications which often come from outside partners who have even more incentives to put simplicity first. There must be plenty of instances where the opposite of what seems to make sense is a much better option…

i.e.

-Grown-ups telling young people not to do things like smoke and drink usually has the opposite effect. Wouldn’t it be better to do something like brand them as brilliant fun for the ‘sad’ and middle aged.

-The hard sell also puts up barriers rather than takes them down… why not communicate how hard your product is to find or make your audience go to special lengths to get hold of it.

-By selling sex to men to promote a product like deodorant (aka LYNX,) you are essentially part of the problem that stops young men getting what they really want i.e. attracting and affirming the behaviours of the kind of men who put pictures of topless women on their wall. Wouldn’t it be better to be the kind of brand that helps men appreciate that if they really really like women that much then would it not be much better to avoid doing things that repel them like giant images of Carman Electra in their uni flat. This may not seem counter intuitive to most women but to the 18 year old male and the marketing director it might well be.

I' m back...



Sure I'm back down to ZERO on the number of people who find their way here... work won the battle for my time but hopefully the balance has now resumed.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The glory of the irrational



It’s a bit of a contradiction that the things that I find most captivating in culture are the ones that should never have happened.

As someone who works in strategy it is quite often easy to see the insights and read the motives behind the things that you see around you from ad campaigns to party political manoeuvres to public art. Generally the logical path that strategic thinking guides you down will land you in a territory that you can read retrospectively and learn to expect the outcomes prospectively. Ironic then that the most interesting things, to me at least, are those where it appears like there was some kind of strategic malfunction or mutation so that what you are seeing logically should never have come about because it just shouldn’t work. It’s even better when the outcome clearly does work. Does this mean that a strategy free project has a better chance of producing something special? Maybe in the chaos there will be lots of costly misses but the hits will be more original and culture changing.

My view would be that this is not the case. Instead I would look at it the other way round and say that if something does work in its execution then there is always a reason. The people who created it may not have fully appreciated this for themselves, more likely they were just living it out. As an example an artist such as Picasso or more likely still a band such as the Beetles could probably not have explained at the time why their contribution was so important as we can now. But these reasons why, are real and can be decoded. This may be done very badly or the theory develop over time, but still there is somewhere a truth about why something had the effect that it did.

If this truth is out there when we look back in hindsight then it must also be possible to seek it out in advance and act according to what you think it must be. That’s what any strategy should be looking for. The fact that so often the strategy gets it wrong or worse still seems to net out in the same ‘seemingly’ logical place as every other attempt is not a problem with the ambition and is instead just human error. Being ridiculous for the sake of it, or different from anything else, or exactly the opposite of the likely strategic response, could all be good recommendations. If they could be justified against all the insight and information available they could justify a freakish offspring that confuses or amazes or stands out from the general order of life. In an environment where it is getting harder and harder to be heard and people more and more adept at demoting things of low importance from conscious view, its not a bad line to take. So here’s to the sublime in the ridiculous.

Above is my first example. In a world that acts upon the intellegence of the lowest common demoninator and that shys away from every possible issue or threat that someone raises in a meeting, the chance of getting a piece of public art signed off that is based on a chaotic confustion of traffic signals in the middle of a round-about should never have made it to fruition. But happily it did.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

“Moving from a brand image brand to a consumer experience brand”

Just found this little discussion piece. Think there is some interesting points about a new starting point for brand communications...
Brand image as a business driver is an outdated model for understanding how consumers relate to companies and brands.

It relies on an old assumption that was probably wrong when it was designed (primarily in agencies) and certainly is getting less and less right. This assumption is that brands can deliver a brand message in mass media and that this will in itself create brand love.

It was probably always wrong because it does not get a couple of fundamentals about the way that people understand, absorb information and gain ‘experience’ of the world around them.
Actually we react not to what people say but by what they do. Actions speak louder than words. The medium is the message is the way to explain this in a cultural or brand context.

It is certainly getting less and less right because a couple of the key pillars that drive it are breaking down. People do not have to listen to brand messages and do not consume the channels that deliver them in the same way. The only stuff that gets through are the things that people choose, things of value to the individual. Ads can be dialed down or ignored more and more easily because generally they do not offer anything of value.

On the other hand what is valued is the consumer experience that is delivered. Whether this be in a direct product related way such as help about how to use a product, or in a more extended general way such as an interesting project that involves them or captures their interest at least.

For this reason it does not make sense to think first about brand narratives or personality – the big brand message that could work as a piece of advertising… Instead the starting point should be to think about the consumer experiences that the brand delivers within and between every communications touch-point.

What kind of experience would this be?

Experience is how we learn stuff so what do you want to teach?
Experience is something we participate in by choice.
Experiences are live, lived and real things in our lives rather than brand image which is the big unknown incalculable
Experiences happen in destinations – retail and digital spaces
Experiences tie products and brands together
The experience of using a product should be married to the entire experience a brand gives... i.e. if your product offers creative thinking tools then so should the brand through every thing it does.

“So decide what you want the consumer experience to be and then work up and outwards from that”

Monday, March 03, 2008

The New Substance Economy



I have been off with the flu for the more than a week which gives you plenty of time to think off the beaten track. The notion that has been occuping most of my thoughts about the future of branded companies is the revolutionary affect that climate change will have on business. To try to think ahead about what the innovations are that will offer the win wins that are needed i.e. a way to do business in a sustainable way which in turn will offer a commercial advantage that will cause that company to make money and grow its goodness.

This is a big ask when so many of the ambitions of business seem to be set in opposition sustainability. The most obvious of these is the desire for producers to sell more and more of their produce with the ambition to dominate the market that they are in and with a view to opening up new markets in which to dominate in the future. There are obvious ways to make the making of things far more sustainable – it must be possible if a raw material intensive company like Innocent or M&S can make claims to be carbon neutral. If these kinds of companies do well then the model that says make more and more stuff is fine if that new product is taking share away from other products that do not work in a sustainable way. But generally this core need to shift ever greater volume is in some industries going to be challenged.  If people start to question simply consuming and disposing of things quickly and cheaply (as we must expect they will,) and also the regulations and trading efficiencies of being a company that relies on this business model become harder (as we expect they must,) then you have two very clear limitations on this way of doing business which could sweep in like wild fire in the next ten years or so. The internet was a revolution but initially it was seen simply as way to sell more and more products with greater efficiency – an extension of the normal day to day practices into a new channel. It was nothing when compared to this notion that even the basic way that most companies make money is being brought into question... that goes right to the core. So what can be done?

In the last few decades big consumer branded companies have shifted the focus away from the manufacturing side of their business which they now buy in from outside suppliers ‘just in time,’ and by the cheapest and easiest means possible, while they focus attention on marketing. This means understanding markets and consumer desires as well as trying to physically manufacture these things to create markets for those outsourced products. So if you go one step further and actually remove the product itself from the equation can it still be made to balance? Common sense would say not but if you think about it the idea of a company that focuses on services and consumer experiences rather than selling physical products is very normal.   It is also very much easier to make it work against the context of higher cost and more restricted production environments and lower consumer demand for carbon intensive products.

The idea of the experience economy is not new and there have been some things written already about the potential value of using this approach as a response to climate change, but it has not been fully adapted and expanded into this area. Nor has a framework been created to show companies how to seek out and monetise these new forms of value. There is strong research that shows that the purchase cycle of shiny new products makes people far less happy (even unhappy,) when held up against experience driven purchases. Branded companies who unlock this new type of value will by this account succeed in making their consumers more happy than those that rely on physical material based models which is in itself a compelling consumer based reason why these transitions should be successful now even before the strongest effect of a quickening climate change economy take hold.

Scoping this opportunity could be an important step to create a path to smooth this transition from the old carbon intensive physical kind of value creation to these new kinds of economic substance. I am going to have a think about what this framework would look like but at the moment it is fair to say that there are a couple of basic principles that I think will apply.

-The brand marketing function will need to take a lead in their development and execution
-They will be people centric and based on all the different types of cultural value that people can experience

But I’m sure there are more… Anyhow the ‘NEW SUBSTANCE ECONOMY’ seemed like a good name for this new kind of value.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Brand friendships... sweet or sour?

I think brands working together to create their own stories could be a bit of a threat to traditional advertising in the future. The thing is that a great meeting of companies can create mutual benefits and its own news where, in the best examples, very little communication is needed. You can do much of it virtually for free. And as they say in groups of three one always gets a left out. I can see how this might be the agencies who have until now been the owners or at least champions of brand value creation capabilities. Think apple + Nike which is a great example of 1+1= 3,4 or even 5. So what would be the rules? Can it work out for just any brand pairing and lead to consumers seeing the value?

A friend of mine sent me a link damning the launch of Opera Mini (web browser but shrunk down for mobile phones,) which was launched via a partnership with Mini. He is a cynical journalist so I thought I would give it the benefit of the doubt. On the surface there is a natural fit between what they want to say to people i.e. 'small and cool,' but actually there is nothing in common at all in the user experience i.e. web browsing on your phone is probably an arrestable offense if making a call gets you three points and a fine. It sits as close to the surface as you can get but has nothing more to offer up.

Whereas another example that I found recently which on the surface seems ridiculous, sits perfectly as a brand partnership when you boil it down.
Poetry publishing and Breakfast cereal..? Now there's lateral thinking. After a number of consecutive years sitting down day after day to read the same ingredients list, the same nutritional data, and the slightly varying antics of an advertising character relic, how refreshing or even enlightening it would be to wake up to better appreciation of poetry. And all this in one of the few moments where you are contained and rooted enough to give it whirl.

So then what would the learning be?

Choose your friends by starting with the consumer experience that you deliver, and then ask whether or not this new introduction would in itself add to or enhance this experience. If not then you won't create additional value, you will just create hot air and no balloon. Mini-Opera (unless I have missed something,) is an example of this. And while you are at it you could look at pretty much any marketing decision you make through this lens!

Myth Creation... "and then he punched a man's head clean off"

This is the moment in the new Rambo film when an ordinary blue collar guy just couldn't sit back any loner and watch the injustice around him. Mostly all he wants is the quiet life but if you piss him off he is capable of punching a mans head clean off. It seems pretty stupid but in its idiocy their is actually a glint of genius. How better could you sum up the sublime in the ridiculous that is another Rambo film than by creating this myth. I.e. the one story that people will tell ( and the irony is all part of it) that carries the meaning of the whole film. Either that or its just my office which as you might imagine is not impartial to the odd You tube link shared by email, where this kind of thing draws a crowd. To create a powerful myth for a product or idea is not easy but when you do its gold.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

LANDMARKS IN THE CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSE

John Grant is looking for some ideas to spread the news about a piece of climate change research that escalates the current thinking to say that what we could instead be facing is more of a tipping point of no return scenario. This factors in the role of positive feedback which basically says that the worse it gets, the worse it gets. In this scenario climate change will be spiralling, permanent and catastrophic. The first step is to make a compelling film that tells the story of the research. I am a bit of a newcomer to all this but this would be my take on how to make this film famous. If you want to read the research presentation it us attached here.

THE FILM AND ITS CONTENT

“Presentation 5”
The research itself is somewhat innocuously headed as presentation 5 (from a day of presentations that were given to government I think.) My first reaction was to think about how the naming and communication of the research needed some added drama and apocalyptic language. However in my head this started to sound like standing in the street with a sign saying ‘the end it nigh,’ rather than what this needs which is arguably a calmer clearer and more official communication. In this light an honest perhaps more unassuming title seemed to make more sense. Innocuous enough to plausibly be the document that changed the world. No drum roll - just the facts. For example… “The Dossier,”“Clause 4,” or “E=MC2.”

With this in mind ‘Presentation 5’ seemed to have more integrity then anything else I could think of. I could imagine an intrigue around “what is ‘Presentation 5?’ “Why is it so important?” “what does it mean for me?” The end of the world is paradoxically something that we hear far more often to the extent that we are used to it. It also begins to tell the story of a day at Westminster.

POPULARISATION OF THE SCIENCE
I was just about ok with the science but it needs some kind of democratisation to make it something that is easy to grasp and easy to share from person to person.
A greenhouse as a metaphor does not tell the story that there will be a point where it irreversibly escalates out of control. Maybe this is the wrong model to explain the research.

The core idea is that as climate change factors intensify, they in turn cause feedback that accelerates the process even further. I understand it best as being like a guitar held too close to an amplifier. The reverberation means that the sound just gets louder and louder until you have to move it away or the amp blows. This model is something that people need to grasp because at the moment you would more naturally assume that everything is proportional which leads to what seems like a logical ‘I’ll wait and see,’ philosophy i.e. the belief that if we take two steps the wrong way and it starts to look bleak then we can simply take two steps back to correct this.

Some new easy mental models would be required such as an;
- Echo chamber climate
- The Deafening Feedback effect
- The point of no return system

These examples all seem to explain the science a little bit more. This certainly needs to be brought to life.

VIEWING OF THE FILM
Anyone can make a viral film these days and pass it round. The 'You-tube' nature of the medium could mean that it may only be viewed as one marginal point of view, a group of opinions etc… I would suggest that to give it gravitas and the kind of necessary PR value more is needed and that it must be aired on Television. We all know that television is not a medium that is not just open to everyone and this is an important behaviour for this project. This will be in line with a public information film that would normally (or should be given to us by government.) A public information film by the public for the public which would add some meaning or even romance to the idea that this was the day that normal people mentally shifted into action mode.

I would suggest that the online movement should focus its attention on two things:
1. Getting the film aired on Television.
2. Turning this airing into a social monument

1. Getting the film aired on Television.
Use the digital space to start a movement to collect money towards the objective of a 90” primetime TV spot. The world wide media plan could visually take shape as the fund grew.
-Would Sky not show it for free?
-Would Richard Branson not fund it to be aired on domestic TV?
-Could we create a facebook widget selling a kooky icon that can be bought and given to other people as a contribution to the media budget?
-Could £1 contribution mean that everyone can feel mobilised?
-Would brands donate airtime to get it shown?

2. Turning it into a social monument
This is about turning that moment when the film is aired into a cultural landmark; a line in the sand. Ideas could revolve around…
-Where were you when ‘presentation 5’ was aired?
- Debate around the right to see the film versus the choice not too.
- Conversations around how do you feel before and after
-Marking the occasion through a behavior that goes with it like turning lights off when its on TV
-Twelve monkeys style ideas around looking forward to look back on the day that the world changed (which seemed innocuous at the time.) Why not talk to climate change aware actors and filmmakers to make a Hollywood movie that starts on the day this film was aired around the world as the trailer for the real airing.
-Big screens public viewings.
- Making the date famous.
-A new time frame perpetuated by the website i.e. BC, AD, “AP5”.
- Making it air simultaneously around the world i.e. the day the world integrated its consciousness.
- News around how it was information for the people by the people (funded by them not by government.)
- Name an era or epoch around the film the ‘POST P5 world’
-A special google home page icon to mark the day
-Set up the ambition that this film should be seen by all of the shareholders of the world i.e. the 6 billion ticket movie.
- Story of how the film was taken to all the corners of the earth to give as many people as possible the chance to see it.
-The story of how it was aired as on online broadcast in countries where it was not permitted to end up on TV.

Think that must be a record word count. In the end I think John just wants to make a simple film that does the science justice but its always worth thinking big before you adopt a sense of perspective : )

Sunday, February 03, 2008

WEB 3.0. The synchronistic web

When writing the last post on speechification which is a site that curates spoken word content from around the internet and offers it in a number of downloadable formats, I was thinking about the bigger principle of what this represents. There is something modern about the way that it works by adding a qualitative service to the endless content that is available. It seems to be indicative of a new kind of value that the evolution of the internet ushers in i.e. content is now pretty much free in many cases but to create a special collection of this content that is selected in a very personal way is beyond any functional search tool and becomes a rare commodity.

A few clicks later through John Dodds' site I came to a post that sets out an entire system of these new kind of products called 'Generatives.'

This is the one that pertains to the behaviour of Speechifcation

Findability
-- Where as the previous generative qualities reside within creative digital works, findability is an asset that occurs at a higher level in the aggregate of many works. A zero price does not help direct attention to a work, and in fact may sometimes hinder it. But no matter what its price, a work has no value unless it is seen; unfound masterpieces are worthless. When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention -- and most of it free -- being found is valuable.

The others cited included, immediacy, personalisation, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage.

It seems to be happening more and more in the digital space that just when you are thinking about something you randomly find the answer. In this case it did seem quite random but as we set up our own connections better and better and some of the above generative values develop I can see this Synchronistic way that that the internet seems to find you what you are looking for will happen more and more. This is pretty close to a description of what I have read about web 3.0 as the Semantic web. I.e. it will be able to read and understand content and thus make hugely more meaningful connections rather than creating links based on simply matching keywords together . I prefer the synchronistic description as it relates to how it will feel rather than how it works and makes it sound like something to really look forward to.

As for a new kind of generative value in a world where everything else is free - I am going to sleep on that one but it sounds like a pretty big idea!