Teenage Beer Drinking Party … Shibboleths

For one entire year in high school, at least once a week, I calmly walked into our Principal’s office, was offered the use of the PA system with a smile and I announced the time and location of a teenage beer drinking party that was broadcast throughout the entire high school. Eventually most of the kids from two different high schools made it out to one of the parties. I never got caught. Ferris Bueller eat your heart out.

Of course I did not actually announce, “Hey everyone! They will serve us booze at Daniel’s Restaurant! See you there at 7 pm tonight!” I spoke in code …

“There will be a Break Dance Club meeting at Danny’s at 7 pm tonight. Members are reminded to arrive promptly and dress appropriately.”

This was long before the “flash-parties” that are the terror of today’s parents, where news of a private “parents away!” party can spread by text message like wild fire and quickly escalate into a swarm of dangerous strangers wrecking and looting a home. That is an entirely different communication effect with its own memetic qualities.

“Break Dance Club” became a “shibboleth” for some of the teen community in my home town. The idea of a Break Dance Club seemed innocent enough to our teachers and parents in a context where a moon walking Michael Jackson was a mass communication pop culture hit. To us the idea of a “Break Dance Club” was an immediate attention getter. Our party music came from Canadian punk rock bands like Teenage Head (who I hired as a teenage rock concert promoter) and the raging guitars of April Wine.

Who are the goofs in this “Break Dance Club”? (murmurred explanation) Ahhhh … ok, I “get it”. I’m “in”. See you there. Hey – are you going to the Break Dance Club meeting? Wha? And so on …

What are your brand “shibboleths”?

Do you know the “shibboleths” of your competitors?

I wonder what Chip & Dan Heath would say about the structural factors that make effective shibboleths? I am reading their book about the memetics of ideas, “Made to Stick“. It is great! But it is focused on how to achieve mass viral success. So far I have not seen them elaborate on how a memetic brand can also have elements that are exclusive – maybe to your employees, perhaps to only your most important customers.

I have been thinking of “Social Capital Value Add” as a sort of shibboleth that will resonate with disciples of value based management, economic profit/economic value add and brand valuation. I am not going after a mass viral “Tipping Point” hit. I am trying to bring a message to a small but potent group of executives within a framework that brings them meaning both in terms of how to understand what is happening and what to do about it.

Is that the right approach?

Anywhoo – thank you to my friend Doug Ireland for explaining to me what I am thinking.

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3 Responses to “Teenage Beer Drinking Party … Shibboleths”

  1. The Godfather Says:

    To be totally honest I think “social” needs to be dropped from this whole argument, don’t get me wrong I head up the Social Media Mafia, yet I’m not convinced of the need for a company to get, well, “social” they simply do not.

    What companies do need to do is think about engagement, think about promoting user contributions.

    This is nothing new by the way, Amazon have had user reviews for about a decade, same goes for other sites who had forums at the early stage. Companies can learn a lot by encouraging customers to contribute to their brand, but I repeat not necessarily get “social”, that’s just the wrong concept.

    There is no big revolution taking place here (despite various evangelising, by some). The Internet is just a process and slowly companies are realising that it’s a good idea to encourage engagement.

    Nothing happened when the phrase Web2.0 was coined, many of us had been engaging the customer for years before:


    I was not “normal” when I wrote and practised that, now however people are catching up and it’s normal, but NOT new.

  2. Michael G. Cayley Says:

    Thanks Chris. Great comment!

    If you are going through the entire line of thinking and most of it works for you then I would not want to get hung up on a word.

    This dog has no name as far as I am concerned, as long as it brings back the bone:

    The magnitude of these effects only emerged in 2004 after broadband penetration overtook internet connections with slower speeds. The change is not gradual it has been exponential, which is why it is being experienced as a sudden shift and I think can be fairly described as an inflection point for business.

    Congratulations for being an innovator. We are still in the early adoption stage of all of this and to move it into the mainstream we need to be able to articulate our value proposition in terms that ignite action in the boardroom. http://memeticbrand.com/2008/11/03/canadian-marketing-association-digital-marketing-conference-2008

    “Social” works on several levels. We are talking about the convergence of:

    – media (ah-hem, social media because is a function of social interaction and its transmission infrastructure is real world social networks),
    – social capital (I think best defined by Nan Link’s network theory of social capital), and,
    – social networks (the real world ones, not just the applications like Facebook).

    “capital value add” are the shibboleths to smuggle “social” into the boardroom.

    Engagement and getting consumer contribution are great objectives and tactics. They can even be articulated as goals and depending on the CEO that you are talking to, may be better words to use.

    Social Capital Value Add is another way to tell the story. It is designed to speak an established language that is rooted on financial theory and accepted in management circles. Stories need to be told in many ways to survive. Variation is the key to natural selection … memetic, blah, blah, blah.

    And what about those Class of 1984 vids? “You take today. I’ll take tomorrow.” Golly that was hip stuff.

  3. Jack Layton vs. Bob Rae: The “battle” we deserve. | redliberals.ca Says:

    […] – I love you man and your nasty past so I am sure that you will take this in the best punk rock spirit possible – time to be a Soldier Boy in […]

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